Viterbi doctorate students learn, experiment with new technology

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Through an international collaboration, USC’s electrical engineering doctorate students received hands-on instruction about a new technology known as Software Defined Radio.

All electronics, like cell phones, computers and TVs, are radios, defined by the different types of hardware they run. With SDR, one type of radio can be turned into another type simply by downloading new software.

“I once heard SDR described as ‘the stem cell of radio’ — I can’t think of a better comparison,” Bhaskar Krishnamachari, a Ming Hsieh faculty fellow in Electrical Engineering, told Viterbi News. “Imagine a device that can operate as a cell phone, Wi-Fi device, or FM receiver for bluetooth, simply by choosing how you program it.”

USC’s venture into SDR started in 2010, when Marcelo Segura, a professor of electrical engineering at Argentina’s San Juan University, came to work with USC engineering professor Bob Scholtz on developing technologies. Scholtz holds the Fred H. Cole professorship in engineering and was one of founders of USC Viterbi’s Communications Science Institute in 1982.

After returning to Argentina, USC electrical engineering professor Hossein Hashemi convinced Segura to return for two more years, to help Ph.D. students and faculty build the University’s first SDR.

Earlier this year, Segura returned to teach students about SDR technology and other new technological theories. Segura said he believes SDR has the potential to act as an equalizer for research, allowing developing nations and other organizations to complete research with the impediment of expensive hardware.

“SDR allows you to do prototyping really fast and cheap,” Segura told Viterbi News. “The same piece of hardware can act as Wi-Fi, LTE or any other radio, meaning that smaller companies can do more research without the big war chests that global companies have access to.”

Though Segura is no longer at USC, he continues to work with Krishnamachari and other USC faculty to develop new technology, according to Viterbi News. In the future, Segura said he hopes to return to USC to further his research and continue teaching students about new SDR technology.

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