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Professor Earns Prestigious NSF CAREER Award
Erin D. McKenzie
Zhu Han
Zhu Han

An assistant professor in UH's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering was recently recognized for work that could allow wireless devices to more efficiently share the radio waves with a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program.

The CAREER Award, presented to Zhu Han this month, is NSF’s most prestigious and competitive grant for junior researchers in science and engineering fields. Established in 1995, it provides support to faculty that have demonstrated great potential early in their careers.

“I feel privileged to receive this award,” said Han. “It will make it possible for me to do much better research to have deeper impacts on wireless communication and networking."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocates portions of the radio spectrum, in varying frequencies. In recent years, they have found that although a growing number of gadgets compete for use of the spectrum, far more than half of the frequencies go unused. It’s happening, Han said, even when channels in the spectrum are already assigned for use.

Using the five-year, $400,000 award, Han is hopeful he can change this by developing devices and algorithms that better utilize periods of quiet in frequencies on the legitimate radio spectrum.

His solution is in an emerging radio technology called cognitive radio networks. These devices would identify quiet frequencies and select one, or more, to receive and transmit data. More specifically, they would be able to monitor and detect not only access availability, but also interference and reconfigure to adapt to best match conditions.

Ultimately, the research could result in less congestion, more reliability and enhanced communication between new devices and systems using the spectrum.

In the first few years of funding, Han plans to further develop his theory and algorithm using mathematical modeling before testing his idea on an actual device.

Han received his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Tsinghua University in 1997, and both his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland-College Park in 1999 and 2003, respectively. He joined the college in August 2008 from Boise State University. That same year, he co-authored the books Resource Allocation for Wireless Networks: Basics, Techniques and Applications and Dynamic Spectrum Access in Cognitive Radio Networks that were published by Cambridge University Press. 

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