NSF CAREER Award Highlights Efforts to Expand Wireless Technology

UAlbany Computer Scientist Mariya Zheleva is the fifth recipient of the prestigious NSF CAREER Award from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 4, 2019) – UAlbany computer scientist Mariya Zheleva conducts research in next generation mobile wireless networks. Since 2015, she has been working with rural communities in upstate New York to substantially improve emergency preparedness and response. Her work, however, also spotlights a looming concern as wireless technologies expand across the globe.

“A growing number of domains that drive economic growth and humanity's well-being, including health care, emergency management and national defense, hinge on wireless network connectivity,” said Zheleva, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS). “But while the technology has become more widely available, existing networks are already operating at capacity.”

For instance, despite a $641 billion market potential, only 8 percent of the radio spectrum is allocated to wireless communication technologies. This minimal allocation creates artificial scarcity of frequency resources, whereby popular bands are saturated, while others are underutilized. In response, wireless technologies have begun to incorporate new hardware and software to boost their spectrum efficiency through opportunistic frequency reuse.

“While promising, this trajectory of innovation cannot be sustained unless we establish a framework for principled spectrum measurement and management that can embrace unforeseen network and sensor capabilities in support of future spectrum policy, policing and technology,” said Zheleva.

For her work in this burgeoning field, Zheleva has been honored with an NSF CAREER Award. Her project, “Automating the measurement and management of the radio spectrum for future spectrum-sharing applications,” has been funded for $510,494 through 2024.

In addition to a framework for spectrum measurement, Zheleva also aims to develop a long-term, integrated program of research, education and outreach related to spectrum sharing.

“This NSF CAREER Award underscores the exceptional promise shown by Dr. Zheleva’s groundbreaking work in intelligent spectral cognizance and opportunistic reuse,” said CEAS Dean Kim Boyer. “Mariya’s research represents the very best of engineering science and is a source of great pride as we continue to build our tradition of excellence and pursue the defining mission of Great Dane Engineering: Science in Service to Society.”

Among Zheleva’s long-term goals, she hopes the outcomes of her work will bridge the existing gap between measurement capabilities and algorithm requirements while tackling realistic scenarios with rogue or incompletely scanned transmitters. Her project aims to produce a cost-utility framework to explore tradeoffs between sensor price, bandwidth, computation and power; and algorithm accuracy, stability and confidence. The integration of research outcomes into an open system will allow systematic and reproducible research and education, while complying with and informing standardization efforts.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.

In addition to serving as an assistant professor of computer science, Zheleva is also the founder and director of the Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory (UbiNET Lab) at UAlbany. The UbiNET Lab conducts research in next generation mobile wireless networks, focusing on autonomous spectrum measurement and dynamic access, architectures and resource allocation in IoT-and-Traditional (IoT&T) networks, measurement infrastructures and networked system design, integration and in-situ deployment. The lab has extensive background in field-deployed research in rural Africa and the U.S.

Zheleva is now the fifth recipient of a CAREER Award at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She joins Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Won Namgoong (2002), associate professors of Computer Science Siwei Lyu (2010) and Jeong-Hyon Hwang (2012), and Assistant Professor Feng Chen (2018).

Namgoong, who serves as associate dean for research at CEAS, received his award for the study of high-performance ultra-wideband radio design.

Lyu’s CAREER Award to develop new methods to detect altered or faked digital images has led to additional funding through the National Science Foundation.

Hwang’s NSF CAREER award was used in the development of G*, a system capable of compressing dynamic graph data based on commonalities among the graphs in the series for “deduplicated” storage on multiple servers.

Chen’s project is entitled “SPARK: A Theoretical Framework for Discovering Complex Patterns in Big Attributed Networks.”

Created in 2015, CEAS was designed to provide the Capital Region’s first public engineering program at a comprehensive university, create new opportunities for students and faculty, foster public engagement, and drive regional economic development.

Zheleva’s project is also significant as UAlbany continues to move forward with plans to renovate the former Schuyler Building to serve as a new home for CEAS. UAlbany is seeking $20 million in capital funding to support the renovation of the North Lake Avenue facility. The renovation will also broaden UAlbany’s downtown footprint and make CEAS a hub for public partnerships and significant public engagement opportunities, including use of the facility’s 1,000-seat auditorium, “maker-tinker space” for unstructured learning, student entrepreneurs, capstone design projects, and programs for local K-12 schools.

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