Gang Zhou, a professor in William & Mary’s Department of Computer Science, has been named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).
Zhou becomes the third computer science faculty member to be named an IEEE fellow. The other two are Qun Li and department Chair Evgenia Smirni.
IEEE has some 400,000 members throughout 160 countries. Members work on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.
“It’s a very broad organization,” Zhou said. “It’s not just computer scientists.” Each year, IEEE selects around 300 of its senior members — less than 0.1 percent — for elevation to Fellow status.
Zhou’s citation indicates that he is being honored for “contributions to sensor network and low power wireless networks.” He explained that there is a continuing proliferation of devices that are connected through low-power protocols such as ZigBee, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. Many of the devices, or nodes, especially ZigBee, communicate with each other through networks; such low-power networks can be sensor networks, or ad hoc networks assembled without sensors.
“My contribution is to study the radio irregularity and frequency diversity,” he explained. “For example, when nodes communicate with each other, how is the property different going in different directions?”
Zhou’s work quantifying the properties of the wild world of sensor networks has important implications for the growing number of smart home devices and other applications. Interference can become a serious problem in low power networks, he said.
“Communication interference can come from neighboring nodes, or even from a device that’s using a different network standard,” Zhou explained.
Zhou’s quantification of network properties came through a sequence of work. His first contribution, nearly a decade ago, was the building of a radio irregularity model that resolved the discrepancy between the spherical radio models widely used by people designing sensor networks and the real-world behavior of radio signals.
The sensor network research community adopted Zhou’s model, resulting in not only the incorporation of Zhou’s work in the graduate curriculum at many universities, but also in the redesign of existing protocols for relevant areas of sensor networks.
Zhou also was a pioneer in the research of frequency diversity, foreseeing the coming crowded-spectrum problem and offering a solution through a way of using frequency diversity among coexisting devices and networks using different radios.
He was among the first to predict the emergence of differing wireless technologies and began researching how those signals might interfere with each other — and how such interference could be reduced or even eliminated. Zhou was a co-author on a paper outlining interference reduction ideas that won the only Best Paper award presented at a 2010 IEEE conference.
Joseph McClain, Research Writer