Let me unveil an ethereal world. A world of waves and networks. A world of clouds and connectivity. A world of communication and interaction. A world that we exist in but never see. A world that fascinates all of humankind — but expands, advances and develops in a lab at Northeastern. Welcome to Kaushik Chowdhury’s world of wireless networks and communication.
Kaushik Roy Chowdhury is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering. He heads the GENESYS lab at Northeastern and serves as the Academic Outreach Director for the National Science Foundation’s project: PAWR, Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research. His lab encompasses research spanning circuit design and sensors using wireless communication.
The Wide Wireless World
What is this ubiquitous world we live in but do not see? How does my ‘Hello’ from Mumbai reach you in Boston? How does one server, one device, one chip interact with another? — Wireless communication. “Wireless communication is not a discovery or innovation that has come into our lives some 10-20 years ago,” Chowdhury observes. “It’s been there since the time of Marconi and Bose who postulated and proved that information can be transmitted via electromagnetic waves that can travel long distances,” he says while sitting in his office on a cool October morning.
The GENESYS lab is moving this age-old science forward and transforming it into applications that are pioneering the field. The lab has multiple foci and works in an interdisciplinary space. There are currently 4 major projects underway, one of which involves Dynamic Spectrum Analysis. Chowdhury states: “We are heavily invested in Dynamic Spectrum Analysis where unused spectra can be picked up and used by making radios smarter.”
A second, interrelated project involves machine learning. “GENESYS,” Chowdhury says, “is using Machine learning to train systems to identify one another without the MAC address. The broad-scale application of this is: no one can fake their identity and every system will stand as unique.”
The GENESYS lab also uses galvanic coupling to create medical devices that are much more energy efficient and safer for use inside the human body.
Kaushik Chowdhury identifies himself as an Entrepreneur Professor. “I am an Entrepreneur who works on a loss system. My best employees, my PhD’s, eventually leave the lab when they are at their best,” he laughs, and says: “However, my students are the ones who come up with some interesting ideas for me to take on and propagate.”
Research, for Chowdhury, is a collaborative function. He not only collaborates with students, but also with other researchers, industry leaders, and different countries. “Partnering is a great way to advance your knowledge, your skillset, and work,” he remarks. “Working with industry gives the lab the bandwidth and space to apply to our research and have it reach the population that accounts in billions,” he continues.
The GENESYS lab partners with MathWorks, and Chowdhury interfaces with the people who wrote the MATLAB toolbox, which excites him tremendously. “I grew up playing with MATLAB, and here I am now collaborating with the man who wrote it,” he exclaims. Chowdhury often sends his students to work in industry, charging them with the task of identifying problems to bring back to the lab to solve.
He explains why this entrepreneurial kind of partnering works for him, stating: “I think the problems identified by young minds are far more novel than what a trained brain can see. My partnering philosophy lies in creating something that requires research and innovation. To solve a problem that seems unsolvable. To give an answer for a question that lies at the root of the problem.” Here we see engineer and entrepreneur merge.
Chowdhury goes one step further by leveraging the NSF to partner with different countries. He is currently working on projects with Finland and Brazil and recently completed a project with India. “These are tougher partnerships,” Chowdhury notes. “Every university functions differently, not to mention an entire country. There are differences in time zones and approaches, but for the researcher in me – it’s a big big world of unsolved mysteries that make me chase these projects fervently,” he says. Clearly he is not intimidated by challenge.
Kaushik Chowdhury’s partnering philosophy begins with a mind, an idea, and the enthusiasm to solve a problem. The esteem stemming from impactful partnerships is much less of a concern. This Entrepreneur/Researcher/Professor is on a quest to generate cutting edge solutions, and he thanks Northeastern for its incredible support.
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Written by Divya Parikh