WPI Awarded Grants Totaling $900,000, Builds Upon Current Strengths in Advanced Wireless Research
Department(s):Electrical & Computer Engineering
Wireless is everywhere, and our society depends on this critical technology for everything that we do. We use GPS when we travel, Bluetooth when we want to connect to our headphones, Wi-Fi for accessing the internet with our laptops, and 5G for utilizing streaming services or multimedia text messaging with our smartphones. Given society’s increasing reliance on wireless connectivity, there exists numerous challenges and issues that need innovative solutions.
Several of these challenges are currently being addressed head-on by a group of core faculty members at WPI specializing in a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and wireless, including Alex Wyglinski (Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Rick Brown (Department Head, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Weston Hadden Endowed Professor in Electrical Engineering), Kaveh Pahlavan (Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Reza Zekavat (Professor of Physics and of Data Science), Bo Tang (Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Bashima Islam (Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering). Their research and teaching activities span a wide range of topics including 5G/6G security, millimeter wave communications, Internet of Things, machine learning-based wireless communications, and tiny machine learning for wireless devices without batteries.
This fall, Wyglinski received four separate grants totaling $898,793 supporting research into 5G – and 6G – innovation, including his activities into 5G security and lunar 5G/6G networks. Of these grants, the largest, totaling $679,741 and titled “Enhancing 5G Security via Analysis of RF Hardware Characteristics and Spectral Behavior,” was awarded by the Air Force via the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) program to WPI to support advanced physical layer wireless research where the study of electromagnetic characteristics of wireless devices and propagation is needed to enhance the security of the 5G network. Additionally, two separate grants were awarded to Wyglinski by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, including a $92,225 amendment to the current “Securing Future 5G Connectivity” award, and a new grant for $96,828 titled “AI-Optimized Spectrally Agile Cognitive Radar Design.” Finally, thinking beyond the confines of Earth and about the needs for reliable wireless connectivity on the moon and Mars, Wyglinski received a sub-award of $29,999 from the multidisciplinary autonomous technology company EpiSci, which recently won a grant from NASA for its proposal titled, “5G-MOSAIC: 5G Mission-Critical Sidelink for Autonomous and Interoperable Communications in Lunar Networks.”
These recent grants are part of a broader wireless research and teaching ecosystem at WPI, which is focused on solving challenging problems and innovating reliable, secure, and practical wireless solutions. For instance, in 2022 Professor Zekavat received a $1,172,896 grant to support his innovative research into leveraging ground-penetrating radar (a form of wireless technology) by putting it on aerial drones to collect soil moisture data and post-process the data using AI to form a map that can be used by farmers to enhance agricultural output.
With support from a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award, recently hired Professor Tang is leading efforts at WPI on the use of deep learning and federated learning across different wireless applications such as GPS navigation and Wi-Fi radio frequency “fingerprinting.” Furthermore, Tang is one of the co-leads for an innovative open software environment—called “Open AI Cellular”—that can be used to test how well AI solutions work for 6G networks.
Recognizing the significant contributions he has made to the field of wireless communications, signal processing, and machine learning, Professor Brown was just named the Weston Hadden Endowed Professor in Electrical Engineering.
Amongst the newest faculty specializing in wireless and AI is Professor Islam, who is a world-renowned expert in Internet of Things and machine learning. As a result of her significant achievements Islam was named one of Forbes “30 under 30” in the science category. Her current research and teaching activities are capturing substantial attention externally as well as on campus with her ECE/CS graduate course “On-Device Deep Learning,” which has enrollment from both graduate and undergraduate students across several majors.
Finally, an internationally renowned pioneer in advanced wireless research here at WPI, Professor Pahlavan, has made numerous contributions to society via his seminal research into Wi-Fi, localization, and body-area networks. An IEEE Fellow, Pahlavan’s impact on how society uses wireless technology was revolutionary. Because of these significant contributions, Pahlavan was the recipient of the 2011 WPI Board of Trustees' Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship.
“Given the increasing importance of advanced wireless on society and the many applications that we use on a daily basis,” Wyglinski says, “it is great to see such a broad spectrum of cutting-edge fundamental and applied research being conducted here at WPI to help solve the big technical challenges currently preventing us from connecting point A to point B.”