Dr. Yasaman Ghasempour Recognized with 2020 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Rice University PhD Cracks the Code to Connect Devices to Terahertz Speed Wireless Networks

Young Scholars

The Marconi Society today recognized Rice University’s Dr. Yasaman Ghasempour as a 2020 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar for her innovative work to bring high-speed terahertz networks to consumers by efficiently connecting devices to these networks. The Marconi Society Young Scholar Award recognizes the world’s most innovative young researchers who are creating tomorrow’s information and communications technology in service of a digitally inclusive world.

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.

Connecting to today’s wireless networks is simple because receivers for these networks – typically modems – send out broadcast signals in all directions (omni-directional) that are easy for devices, like mobile phones and computers, to find. While tomorrow’s terahertz networks promise a huge increase in speed to support applications such as device-free heart rate monitoring, wireless virtual reality and real-time safety applications for autonomous vehicles, it is challenging for these networks to connect devices to receivers.

“At higher frequencies, we have exponentially higher energy loss that requires the use of directional narrow beams instead of omni-directional transmissions,” says Ghasempour. “These narrower beams make it challenging for devices to find each other. In addition, devices need to continuously align their directional beams to stay connected while moving. We had to allow this continual alignment in a way that does not disrupt the connection.”

The real-time, high-speed connections that Ghasempour’s innovations enable will be used in many ways. For example, if a child runs into a busy street, a connected sensor in her backpack could alert the emergency braking system in an oncoming connected car to avoid a tragic accident. The connected smartwatch of a semiconscious man could automatically alert arriving paramedics that he has both dementia and diabetes. Or safety engineers responding to a gas leak at a factory could use network-connected drones to pinpoint the leak and network-connected ID badges to locate and evacuate every employee.

Ghasempour uses sensing to establish and maintain these connections between devices and the network. “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. The “Beyond 5G” wireless networks of the future could make this scenario and many others a reality,” remarks Ghasempour. “Because we can share the sensor information with ultra-high speed wireless links, we can form a collaborative sensing and information environment where every device can be a sensing node.”

“Yasaman’s research is deep, bold and interdisciplinary, spanning from physics to electrical engineering and computer science,” says Edward Knightly, Sheafor-Lindsay Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Rice University and Ghasempour’s advisor. “While terahertz links had been demonstrated in a few physics labs, there was not yet any way to dynamically connect devices for a true mobile network until now.”

“Yasaman’s focus on designing fast, affordable Internet with minimal device cost and power consumption is key to connecting the next billion users. We are proud to welcome her to the Marconi Society and look forward to her continued innovations as an Assistant Professor at Princeton University,” said Vint Cerf, Chair of the Marconi Society.