Radio Signals, Diabetes, and Beavers: Just Another Graduate Research Colloquium

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

Graduate students from across campus trotted out their research and explained the unexplainable at the latest Graduate Research Colloquium held at the Memorial Union Building, with more 25 posters accompanying the two days of presentations.

Suryabh Sharma, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, discussed his work, which might not see the light of day for 20 to 25 years. His work is guided by Associate Professor Gerry Tian.

Realizing that the spectrum of open radio signals is finite, in both frequency and bandwith, there needs to be “cognitive radio networks” developed.

“These will be able to use a part of the spectrum at a certain time that is un-utilized or underutilized, based on time or space,” Sharma says.

Cell phones, for example, will have to be developed with enough computing ability to find these unused frequencies. Sharma’s project was to calculate the probability of success, with best and worst case scenarios, in an algorithm: “gathering data and making it meaningful data.”

His answer? “It is feasible.”

So, someday, we’ll never have to worry about not being able to connect to the wireless grid, in theory.

Nearby, physics graduate student Archana Pandey was describing how implantable nano-devices could be used as glucose sensors in diabetics. In addition to helping people stay healthy, Pandey has discovered an additional benefit.

“Miniature biofuel cells could also be implanted and convert glucose from the initial nanodevice into energy,” she says.

This could be especially helpful to diabetics, who sometimes lack energy, and that impacts their eating habits, Pandy adds.

One problem: the devices work fine when cooled, but body temperatures are too hot. But, she is still working on it with help from teammates Abhishek Prasad, Jason Moscatello and Abhay Singh, and advisor Yoke Kin Yap.

“I inherited my work,” says Mark Romanski of forest resources. And famous work it is: research on the habitants of Isle Royale, in this instance, beavers.

Continuing work of Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich and others, Romanski actually looked at how data is collected on the beaver populations. It is a classic research quandary: how do we know the numbers are accurate? Romanski looked at “double-count surveys,” where two researchers will both attempt to count the same population of a species. Beginning his work in 2006, he discovered a large discrepancy in numbers of beavers counted previously.

“We used smaller aircraft in later surveys than they did in earlier ones,” he said. “When our numbers came back much lower in the planes that should allow for more-accurate sightability–slower speeds and lower flights–we realized that sightability from the larger planes was grossly overestimated.”

More than a study of how to study, then, Romanski’s work helps complete the puzzle of the complicated ecosystem on the island.

He also included a couple of tidbits: moose and beaver have a similar appetite for foliage, and wolves have an appetite for beaver.

“They wait near their lodges until they come out,” he says. “They know where they live.”

Published in Tech Today.