Zhang receives multimillion-dollar NSF award for underwater wireless networks

Photo of Dr. Xi ZhangDr. Xi Zhang, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, has received a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Zhang -- who leads a team of three researchers from the University of Connecticut, the University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Washington -- received the grant for developing the next generation underwater wireless networks.

In the proposal Zhang said that there is growing global importance of ocean exploration and monitoring as the oceans play a major role in climate regulation, nutrient production, resource retrieval and transportation, and more. Building and deploying a real-time underwater networked sensing infrastructure is thus needed for desired levels of monitoring and data collection. Despite a wave of research efforts in the area of underwater wireless networks, the lack of a community underwater wireless network experimental system has so far hampered further advances, as there is no common platform to evaluate and compare various communication and networking algorithms and protocols

Their NSF-sponsored project aims at developing, implementing and conducting research on open experimental system, called Ocean-TUNE, which is accessible to the public. It consists of four systems sites to be deployed at the main four different U.S. ocean water areas -- Galveston Bay (Texas) in the Gulf Mexico, Long Island Sound (Connecticut) in the Atlantic Ocean, Santa Monica Bay (California) in the Pacific Ocean and Hood Canal (Washington) in the northern Pacific Ocean -- that have a diverse coverage of along the U.S. coast in terms of geography, weather and environments.

Figure of networkZhang said the Ocean-TUNE experiment system will include flexible choices of surface nodes, bottom nodes and mobile nodes with reconfigurable modems (see figure on the right). It will enable the vision of remote controlled and continuous networked node deployments running tests of communication, networking, sensing, and data streaming. In addition, the Ocean-TUNE experiment system will enable oceanographers to study scientific research questions, while using the Ocean-TUNE experiment system as a prototype for larger real-time monitoring deployments elsewhere. The advanced techniques to be used in the Ocean-TUNE experiment system include wireless networks, acoustics signal processing, wireless communication, networking, engineering and oceanography.

Zhang, the founding director of the Networking and Information Systems Laboratory and an expert in wireless networks and information systems, joined the Texas A&M faculty upon receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science (electrical engineering systems) from The University of Michigan. He was with the Networks and Distributed Systems Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hills, N.J., and with AT&T Laboratories Research in Florham Park, N.J.

Zhang has published more than 220 research papers. He received the U.S. National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2004. He is an IEEE communications society distinguished lecturer. He received Best Paper Awards at IEEE GLOBECOM 2007, IEEE GLOBECOM 2009 and IEEE WCNC 2010, respectively. He also received a TEES Select Young Faculty Award “for Excellence in Research Performance” from the college of engineering at Texas A&M in 2006. He is serving or has served as editor for IEEE Transactions on Communications, IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology and IEEE Communications Letters. He also was guest editor for IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications, IEEE Communications Magazine and IEEE Wireless Communications. He is serving or has served as TPC chair for IEEE GLOBECOM 2011, TPC area chair for IEEE INFOCOM 2012, general vice-chair for IEEE WCNC 2013, TPC vice-chair for IEEE CCNC 2013, TPC vice-chair for IEEE INFOCOM 2010, among others. His research interests include wireless networks and communications systems, multimedia transmissions over wireless networks, network protocol design and modeling, statistical communications, random signal processing, information theory and control theory and systems.