CIS professor receives $465,000 CAREER Award from National Science Foundation

March 15, 2012


Kai Zeng will conduct research toward reliable and efficient network monitoring in white space

DEARBORN / March 15, 2012---Kai Zeng, assistant professor of computer and information science at University of Michigan-Dearborn, has been awarded the Early Faculty Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. The award, also known as the CAREER Award, is NSF’s most prestigious honor for young faculty members.

Zeng’s research interests are in wireless networking and cyber security. The CAREER Award – a five-year, $465,000 grant – will enable Zeng to conduct a comprehensive study toward reliable and efficient network monitoring in white space cognitive radio networks.

Monitoring the detailed characteristics of an operation cognitive radio network is critical to many system administrative tasks, such as spectrum usage optimization, network optimization and forensics.

“People use wireless networks every day. Wireless traffic is expected to increase more than 20 fold in five years,” Zeng says. “How to support this increase is an ongoing challenge.”

That challenge, he says, is comparable to one engineers face when roads become too crowded. “You want to fit a lot of cars on one road. Options might be to broaden the road or use parts of the road more efficiently. Similarly, the spectrums on which we communicate wirelessly have become crowded due to demand. Now we are looking for ways to communicate and compute as efficiently as possible.”

The project will develop mechanisms for monitoring the activity of a low-power primary user – the wireless microphone – and secondary users in white space.

“Because of the significance of spectrum shortage, the Federal Communications Commission released analog TV bands, often referred to as white space, to unlicensed, secondary users on a non-interference basis,” Zeng explains.

“So to access white space, secondary users must first identify the spectrum hole before transmitting and then must evacuate immediately when a licensed primary user appears.”

The goals of Zeng’s research are to quickly and reliably determine when the primary users access the spectrum and to characterize the user traffic and spectrum usage patterns in secondary networks.

Long term, monitoring the network is fundamental to further manage and optimize spectrum utilization, supporting smart grid, public safety, broadband cellular and medical applications.

Zeng joined UM-Dearborn this past fall. Previously, he was a postdoctoral researcher within the Department of Computer Science at University of California, Davis. He received his Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Zeng is one of three UM-Dearborn faculty members currently conducting research with a CAREER Award. Habib Ammari, associate professor of computer and information science, and Shengquan Wang, assistant professor of computer and information science, also have received CAREER Awards.

Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan-Dearborn is a metropolitan university serving southeastern Michigan, committed to excellence rooted in strong academics, innovative research and programming and civic engagement. The University has nearly 8,900 students pursuing more than 90 bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business and education. A top-ranked university with a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of partnering with local leaders and communities, and is committed to finding solutions for the challenges that face the region.
Beth Marmarelli
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