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Tech Engineers Receive More Than $1 Million to Improve Networks


Pictured (left to right): Hanif Sherali, Thomas Hou, and Scott Midkiff at Virginia Tech.

“A critical factor affecting the wide-scale deployment of wireless ad hoc networks is network capacity,” asserted Thomas Hou, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech.

A key technology to increase the capacity of wireless networks is called multiple-input-multiple-out (MIMO). It means the use of multiple antennas at both the transmission and the receiving ends. The objective is to improve communication performance.

“Unfortunately, existing models for this technology are either too mathematically complex to be used or too simple to be accurate,” Hou said. “As a result, research progress on multi-hop multiple-in-multiple-out ad hoc networks remains stagnant despite rapid advancements in this research at the physical layer.”

Hou, who received an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2003 and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2004 for his research on optimizations and algorithm design for wireless ad hoc and sensor networks, developed a few novel ideas on how to increase the capacity for wireless networks.

Hou, who has coedited a textbook on cognitive radio communications, collaborated with Scott Midkiff, professor and head of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, on his ideas. Together, they have now received a little over $1 million from the National Science Foundation for two projects on wireless network research. On one of the projects, Hanif Sherali of Virginia Tech’s Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is also a co-principal investigator.

“We expect our research to be potentially transformative. With one of the two projects, we believe our work will serve a critical need in advancing multi-hop multiple-in-multiple-out network research by exploring new models beneath the network layer that are both tractable and accurate.”

Sherali, a University Distinguished Professor and W. Thomas Rice Chaired Professor of Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, is an expert in designing and analyzing mathematical models. Working with Hou and Midkiff, the three also say they hope their work will result in the development of new cross-disciplinary wireless networking curricula, as well as research opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates.

“Cooperative communications is well recognized as a key technology to increase throughput and reliability of wireless networks,” Hou said. “Although advances in this technology have been made, many fundamental problems remain open at the network layer.”

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 6,000 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.


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