Marconi Society Names Three 2020 Paul Baran Young Scholars

Innovative researchers create breakthroughs to scale next-generation wireless and quantum networks

Cleveland, OH, August 4, 2020

The Marconi Society today recognized three outstanding young researchers who are harnessing the power of next generation wireless and quantum networks  to improve the lives of consumers everywhere. The Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award recognizes the world’s most innovative young engineers who are creating tomorrow’s information and communications technology in service of a digitally inclusive world.

“The power of connectivity, as well as the need to bring the opportunity of the network to everyone, has never been more apparent than it is today,” said Vint Cerf, Chair of the Marconi Society.  “Our Young Scholars are the braintrust that will put the speed, security and applications of next generation networks into the hands of billions.”

Dr. Yasaman Ghasempour of Rice University is recognized for her innovations to bring high-speed terahertz networks to consumers by efficiently connecting devices to these networks.  Ghasempour’s contributions will make it possible for people to easily and economically use new ultra high-speed wireless networks by coordinating the connections from devices, such as computers, mobile phones and autonomous vehicles, to the network and efficiently maintaining these connections in mobile environments.

The real-time, high-speed connections that Ghasempour’s innovations enable will be used for applications such as improving the safety of autonomous vehicles or locating people in need of evacuation during fires or other emergencies. “With my technology, we can create a next generation Internet of Things (IoT) by interweaving many more devices — thousands of times more than are connected to today’s wireless web — and providing them with faster streams of data,” says Ghasempour.

Vikram Iyer is a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington, recognized for his creativity in developing bio-inspired and bio-integrative wireless sensor systems.  Iyer’s contributions enable traditionally stationary Internet of Things (IoT) devices to move, putting a new and scalable category of data collectors into the world to help us understand our environment at scale and with a fine degree of detail.

Iyer developed a wireless sensing platform light enough to be deployed on bumblebees. “We could use this platform to study micro-climates on large farms, to answer questions about insects’ behavior or to collect air quality data at a highly granular level so that we can  understand the correlation between environment and demographics,” said Iyer.

Piotr Roztocki, a PhD candidate at Canada’s Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), is honored for his ground-breaking work in developing scalable quantum resources that can be used within existing telecommunications networks.  Roztocki’s contributions take quantum photonics, which can offer major advances in next-generation information security, from the lab to global telecommunications networks.

These innovations may be key in ensuring that critical security infrastructures for banking, online transactions, and the like will continue to be safe, even as today’s public key cryptography approaches may become vulnerable to attacks from increasingly-mature quantum computing capabilities.  “While quantum mechanics gives rise to this security problem, we can also leverage its unique physics to help realize future-proof security,” says Roztocki.

Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel of engineers from leading universities and companies.

About the Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award

The Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award honors the world’s most innovative young engineers in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).  Presented to researchers who are 27 years old or younger to commemorate Guglielmo Marconi’s age when he made his first successful wireless transmission, this award recognizes researchers who have shown extraordinary technical acumen, creativity and promise for using ICT in service of digital inclusion.


About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society envisions a world in which all people can create opportunity through the benefits of connectivity.  The foundation celebrates, inspires and connects individuals building tomorrow’s technologies in service of a digitally inclusive world.


Paula Reinman

Marconi Society Names Three 2019 Paul Baran Young Scholars

Innovative researchers from around the world create breakthroughs to scale 5G networks and the Internet of Things

San Francisco, CA, April 30, 2019

The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, has named three 2019 Paul Baran Young Scholars, honoring them for their outstanding research and academic performance. The three will be recognized at the Society’s annual awards ceremony in the San Francisco Bay Area on May 17.

Min-Yu Huang, a PhD student at Georgia Tech, is selected for his work to enable future ultra-reliable low-latency communications over 5G and beyond wireless networks. His research focuses on innovative system architectures that combine mathematical, physical and IC engineering approaches to overcome many inherent challenges for future communications and achieve state-of-the-art performance for emerging low-latency applications. These include commercial uses like virtual reality, augmented reality, machine-type or vehicle-to-vehicle communications and defense uses, such as fast-moving drone radar/sensing and emergency services.

Huang’s advisor, Professor Hua Wang at Georgia Tech, says, “We believe these applications will stimulate the next-generation wireless communication research, and we have been building the related topics as a major research theme in my groups. New ideas are leveraged from every part of our connected world, from fiber optic communications to machine learning, 5G and information theory.”

Dr. Vasuki Narasimha Swamy, a Research Scientist at Intel Labs and UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate, is recognized for her work to design robust wireless protocol frameworks for ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC). Many of the most compelling Internet of Things applications, such as affordable precision agriculture, smart energy-efficient cities and advanced flexible manufacturing, depend on large-scale, highly reliable, low latency networks. Narasimha Swamy created a fundamentally different way to design these networks by identifying the worst-case scenario in each assumption in a simple wireless channel model and determining which assumptions are most critical to refine to make the network deliver the required performance.

Narasimha Swamy’s advisor and UC Berkeley Professor Anant Sahai explains her process. “To provide system-level reliability that exceeds the trust we have in our models, Vasuki did three radically different things. She adapted the modeling philosophy of nominal model + quantified-unmodeled-uncertainty from robust control to URLLC. Second, she revisited the classical Jakes’ model for multipath fading and revealed that, in the context of URLLC, the fading processes is not well-enough approximated by something quasi-static (contradicting conventional wisdom). Third, she brought simple machine learning to bear on the problem and showed that when the latencies are very short, multipath fading can be predicted well enough based on past measurements to support high system-level reliability via appropriate redundancy.”

Bichai Wang is a PhD candidate at Tsinghua University who is being recognized for her work to help increase capacity and cost benefits of 5G networks and their applications. As service providers around the world test and launch 5G networks to deliver next generation communications services to billions, it is clear that conventional network access schemes cannot meet the radical spectrum efficiency and connectivity requirements of 5G. Many in the industry are looking to Non-Orthogonal Multiple Access (NOMA) to meet these needs. The standard-setting body for 5G, the 3GPP, currently has 15 NOMA schemes before it, making it difficult to standardize on how to deliver specific use cases. Wang proposed the first-ever unified framework to systematically compare the different schemes by looking at features, spectral efficiency, receiver complexity and other key criteria to help the industry understand the tradeoffs between different schemes and where to focus.

“Bichai has won several very prestigious and challenging awards, including the IEEE ComSoc Asia-Pacific Outstanding Paper Award in 2018,” says her Tsinghua University advisor, Professor Linglong Dai. “I hope that her excellent achievements will attract more outstanding female researchers to participate in research on wireless communications.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies and receive a $5000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. This year’s Young Scholars will be honored at the annual Marconi Awards Dinner where cryptographers Taher Elgamal and Paul Kocher, who developed SSL/TLS and other contributions to the security of communications, will share the $100,000 Marconi Prize.

About the Marconi Society

Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. More information may be found at www.marconisociety.orgSubscribe. Follow: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook


Hatti Hamlin

Paula Reinman

Young Scholar Rajalakshmi Nandakumar: An App to Fight Opioid Overdoses

Segment Guest: Rajalakshmi Nandakumar – Rajalakshmi Nandakumar is a PhD candidate in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Listen to the entire episode on Science Friday.

Nandakumar App

If a person fails to interact with the app, it will contact someone who can administer naloxone. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

Last year, about 47,000 people in the United States died from an opioid overdose, including prescription and synthetic drugs like fentanyl, according to the CDC.

And as the epidemic of opioid abuse continues, those looking to reduce death rates are searching for ways to keep drug users safer.

But what if your smartphone could monitor your breathing, detect early signs of an overdose, and call for help in time to save your life? Researchers writing in Science Translational Medicine this week think they have just that: smartphone software that can ‘hear’ the depressed breathing rates, apnea, and changes in body movement that might indicate a potential overdose.

University of Washington PhD candidate Rajalakshmi Nandakumar explains how the software, which uses smartphone speakers and microphones to mimic a bat’s sonar, can ‘hear’ the rise and fall of someone’s chest—and could someday even coordinate with emergency services to send help.

Sparking Young Minds to Solve Air Pollution and Traffic Fatality Problems

By Aakanksha Chowdhery

The Celestini Program’s objective is to grow the next generation of networking and communications innovators in developing countries by empowering undergraduate students to create social and economic transformation in their communities through technology. The Marconi Society and our Young Scholars achieve this by selecting universities with promising telecommunications and engineering undergrads and providing them with support and mentorship to help tap their students’ true potential.

Two Years, Two Big Issues

In 2016, the Celestini Program started in Uganda and in 2017 it expanded to India under the leadership of young scholar Dr. Aakanksha Chowdhery (Google) in partnership with Prof. Brejesh Lall (IIT Delhi). Student teams are selected through a technical screening exam, as well as an interview in spring. The selected student teams work over the summer at IIT Delhi to identify an important problem in their community that they would like to solve and then to prototype their projects. In 2017, the first year of the project pilot, thirty students expressed interest in working on the project and six students were selected to work on the problem of improving road safety.

In the second year of the project, 2018, more than one hundred students expressed interest in working on the program during the summer and three student teams, comprising eight students, were selected. They chose problem statements related to air pollution and road safety in Delhi. One team prototyped a website that forecasts air pollution levels in Delhi over the next 24 hours. Another team designed an Android app that uses a user-uploaded photos to estimate air pollution levels. A third team prototyped a low-latency platform to transmit vehicle-to-vehicle alerts about potential road safety hazards/collisions using Xbee radios.

Unique Approaches to Improving Air Quality

Preserving air quality is a critical challenge in the industrial and urban areas of many emerging economies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ambient Air Quality Database released in Geneva, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 concentrations. One potential solution is to increase awareness of the problem by enabling users to understand and track the level of air pollution, as well as to receive forecasts for the next day along with information about the potential sources of pollution. This could provide the basis for taking effective pollution control measures.

One of the student teams worked on designing a temporal forecasting solution to predict the real-time and fine-grained air quality information in five locations around Delhi, based on the historical data reported by Central Pollution Control board. The solution predicts the air quality over the next 24 hours based on the level of different air pollutants including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOx), PM2.5 and PM10. It also tracks the seasonal variations of the major pollutants and the potential sources of pollution at different points in time. The challenge in their project is to build accurate machine learning models that effectively adapt to the daily and seasonal variations of various pollutants. They developed an advanced machine learning model called CLair using LSTM techniques. The team deployed their solution approach on the Google Cloud Platform to automatically generate predictions every few hours on this website for five Delhi locations.

They showcase their project in this video.

Temporal forecasting can predict air pollution levels in locations where the Delhi government provides air quality data hourly, but this is limited to specific locations. A scalable approach requires crowdsourcing where we use inputs from the entire population and the easiest way to leverage crowdsourcing is via smartphone applications that are widely used by Delhi residents. Toward this goal, one of the student teams developed an Android smartphone application called Air Cognizer.

This application allows users to upload an input image of the sky horizon taken from their smartphone camera. Based on the certain features of the sky, such as how blue it is, the app predicts air quality particulate matter indicator, PM2.5 concentration, with an error less than 5%. The application combines image processing with machine learning using Tensorflow Lite to generate estimates by combining a pre-training machine learning model with a model trained online for each location based on all the user-uploaded photos. Two key challenges that students solve are preprocessing the data collected from different smartphone cameras so that the machine learning model works accurately and deploying this machine learning model on the smartphone with Tensorflow Lite to enable a low-latency real-time prediction experience. The video below provides a sample of the Android application that the team has launched in Google Play store

Year Two of Improving Road Safety

Another challenging problem that the student teams worked on is road safety. Over 200,000 people in India lost their lives in road accidents in 2015. Traffic accidents are the top cause of death for people aged 19-25. In Delhi, many of these accidents are caused by buses hitting pedestrians and cyclists. In 2017, one student team worked on prototyping a solution using Raspberry Pis and dashboard cameras to detect pedestrians and cyclists on potential collision course with the vehicle showcased in this video.

This year, a student team prototyped a solution that allows multiple vehicles to talk to one another at low latencies (tens of milliseconds) to send real time alerts about possible impending collisions to drivers behind them to prevent chain-reaction car accidents. This system leverages computer vision to classify a given scenario as one that may result in collision. Then the system uses vehicle to vehicle communications to broadcast alerts. Each vehicle, acting as a node, broadcasts information about its speed, location etc. and the other nodes receive and process this information based on the degree of relevance that the message holds. The solution approach was designed over Xbee radios as a low-latency solution (~30-40ms) available off-the shelf at low cost. This video and website link showcases their work during the project.

Going Forward

The concluding ceremony of this year was held on November 1 at IIT Delhi where Marconi Society board member, Prof. Andrea Goldsmith (Stephen Harris Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University), gave an inaugural address. The ceremony was attended by the IIT Delhi Dean of Alumni Affairs & International Programmes, faculty members from EE and CS and industry partners. The winning team who developed the smartphone application Air Cognizer for air pollution analytics using smartphone camera photos was awarded a cash prize of $1500.



Our results so far show that the Celestini Program brings hands-on learning and critical decision-making skills to participating students and that we are inspiring these students to pursue STEM-related studies to solve the problems they see in their communities. The participating students value the experience of developing prototypes that solve real-world problems with the potential to improve the well-being of their communities. We have already had the privilege of working with 14 outstanding students in the Celestini Program India and look forward to seeing the exceptional ways that they use STEM in their careers.