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5 Questions with Faculty: Hany Elgala

Thumbs up dive! From left, Hany, Farah, Riham and Omar during a diving trip in 2017 at Sahl Hasheesh on Red Sea coast of Egypt. 

ALBANY, N. Y. (May 17, 2018) — Hany Elgala is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), part of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS).

Elgala received his undergraduate degree in Communications and Electronics in 2000 from Ain-Shams University in Egypt, and a master’s in Electrical Engineering in Smart Systems in 2003 from Furtwangen University in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He did his doctoral work at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, researching optical wireless communication systems. He was the first faculty hire at of the ECE department at CEAS.

“I started in August 2015, so I’m in my third year at UAlbany. Currently, I have three Ph.D. students, one MSc and two BSc students conducting research in my research lab, Signals and Networks laboratory (SINE Lab),” Elgala said. “It is a unique opportunity and adventure to start a new department. The growth rate of the full-time faculty members and students as well as quality standards have exceeded my expectations.”

What are your working on now?

Currently, for different indoor wireless applications and services, we are switching between different wireless radio frequency (RF) technologies such as 4G LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth. These wireless technologies are based on different hardware transceiver modules that are transmitting different modulated RF signals. In addition, existing solutions can hardly meet the demands of simultaneous wireless services: Internet access, IoT connectivity, and sensing. Are you aware of any commercial product that offers a wireless sensing application based on existing WiFi Internet access?

Together with my research team at SINE Lab, we are working on designing a universal modulating signal to vary the intensity of light sources and enable light fixtures to be the future wireless access points based on the visible light communications (VLC)/ LiFi technology. The VLC/LiFi technology will transform spaces, where lighting products are used for completely new purposes. Our designed signal will enable high-end and low-end VLC/LiFi enabled devices to capture and process the same signal, to reliably estimate the transmitted data and identify beacons used in sensing. Our solution could enable a light fixture to be the WiFi successor in offering high speed Internet access for high-end mobile devices, being a connection hub for low-end IoT devices, sensing people and tracking assets.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

Engineers are constantly changing the world with inventions and solutions that affect everyone's lives. I decided to be an engineer because I thought it would be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I figured out late that there isn't a Nobel Prize in engineering!

During my sophomore year in college, the first global system for mobiles (GSM) network was launched in Egypt, November 1996. At that time, the field of wireless communication was booming and I decided not to stick with the original plan. I specialized in communications and electronics instead of civil engineering. I never regretted the decision.

If you weren’t teaching at a university, what would you be doing?

I'm really fascinated by the human brain, so a career in neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, or psychology could satisfy my curiosity.

What’s one thing students might be surprised to know about you?

Before moving to the U.S. from Germany, I was living on campus at Jacobs University — not as a student. Together with my wife, Riham Galal, we were the resident directors or “College Masters” of one of the residential halls. For almost nine years, we lived and worked on a cross-cultural campus, accommodating students from more than 100 countries, supervising college employees, coordinating events and resolving student conflict. We enjoyed such a unique experience and are still willing to take similar positions in the future.

What’s your favorite food, to eat or cook, and why?

Like a typical German, I like rye bread, sauerkraut, Brezel and beer. Since 2016, the whole family cannot resist eating sushi at any time. Of course, with chopsticks! At the SINE lab, we go off-campus every second week and explore a new restaurant.

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