Growing demands for data, data, data

Natasha Devroye

Natasha Devroye: creating clear communication channels. Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

This year, UIC honors 10 outstanding researchers with the Researcher of the Year Award, a $5,000 cash prize. Five established faculty members were named Distinguished Researchers and five early career scientists were honored as Rising Stars.

Natasha Devroye
Rising Star
Natural Sciences & Engineering

How much wireless data adds up to system overload?

That’s the mathematical question that Natasha Devroye aims to solve.

Devroye studies information theory — the mathematical theory behind communications networks. “I’ve always enjoyed mathematics but I also like to have some sort of practical motivation to my problems,” said Devroye, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“Information theory is a nice mixture of being engineering-oriented but in a very fundamental way.”

Wireless systems are constantly being improved to accommodate the public’s growing demand for more data capabilities, Devroye said.

“We’re looking at what’s the most data you’ll ever be able to squeeze out of this network,” she said. “It’s a predictor of future technologies — saying that you should be able to get this many megabits per second.

“Finding the capacity of wireless networks is a really big, open problem at the moment.”

Devroye’s work helps guide engineers and communications companies in the right direction.

“They go and try to reach this limit, this benchmark,” she said.

Wireless companies and engineers are trying to pinpoint ways to limit, manage or even exploit interference between devices and find ways that the devices could work together to create clearer communication channels, Devroye said.

“Right now, all cell phones are independent but we can envision my cell phone trying to help your phone,” she said.

“The possibilities are endless.”

Devroye studies new wireless devices called cognitive radios, which sense the wireless environment, then adapt to it.

“We’ve modeled what happens when these devices start coexisting with older wireless devices — how they could impact them and how we could improve communication when we have these devices,” she said.

She balances her research with supervising seven doctoral students.

“I love working with my students,” she said. “They are responsible for the research as much as I am.”

In her free time, Devroye enjoys traveling, scuba diving and hiking with her husband, Jakob Eriksson, assistant professor of computer science.

Since joining UIC four years ago, she’s felt right at home.

“I had a really nice sense that I would fit in and I have fantastic collaborators,” she said.

Other Researchers of the Year

Xiaoping Du: Distinguished Researcher, Basic Life Sciences 

Leon Fink: Distinguished Researcher, Humanities 

Stacie Geller: Distinguished Researcher, Clinical Sciences 

Rachel Havrelock: Rising Star, Humanities 

Seungpyo Hong: Rising Star, Basic Life Sciences

Bing Liu: Distinguished Researcher, Natural Sciences & Engineering 

Ben Superfine: Rising Star, Social Sciences 

Krista Varady: Rising Star, Clinical Sciences 

Maria Varelas: Distinguished Researcher, Social Sciences 

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