Q: What is your area of expertise?
A: Physical process of communications over networks like using cell phones or the Internet which is pretty broad. Wireless links as well as modeling and analysis of systems with random behavior.
Q: Give me a brief synopsis of your education and career.
A: I was an undergrad at UIUC and I was a Computer Science major for a while but I graduated in Mathematics. And then I came over to Electrical Engineering for my master’s and then I went to Berkeley for my PhD.
Q: You have been a faculty member at Illinois since 1979. What do you enjoy most about being here?
A: The colleagues have been excellent, very cooperative and strong in research. The students have been great too. And I like the town and the weather so it’s a great place all around.
Q: Why did you become an engineer?
A: I like mathematics and enjoy doing applied things and putting it to work for something useful. Also, my father was an engineer. He designed tractors and stuff like that. So the math is really nice, and applying it is great, too.
Q: How did you become interested in research aspects of your field, and what keeps you interested?
A: I look for areas where I can make an impact and my students can also make an impact without studying for many, many years. Now communication networks are pretty pervasive but when I first started out there weren’t too many around and not many people had heard of the Internet. It’s good to work on something where there are a lot of unknown things.
Q: Tell me about a research accomplishment you’re proud of.
A: I’m pleased with work I did with students on algorithms for communications over networks and wireless channels.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
A: Of course it’s the students. If they weren’t there, it wouldn’t be much fun. It’s fun to interact with students, and they help me see the material in new ways. I also like lecturing and the interaction and also learning the material better. I look at things a lot differently if I have to explain it to somebody else. I have to know it a lot better if I hardly understand it myself. It helps the material become more ingrained when you have to teach it.
Q: What made you want to go into teaching?
A: I really enjoy sharing the joy of learning with students.
Q: What role do students play in your research?
A: They start out as apprentices where I sort of help out with smaller problems and act as a sounding board and then they end up as collaborators where they can set strategic directions themselves.
Q: Over the years, you have received several service awards. Which one is most meaningful to you? Why?
A: No one in particular. It’s nice to be noticed. There are so many talented people around the department.
Q: What are you focused on today?
A: Communication networks and interaction with social/cognitive networks.
Q: What does the future hold?
A: I think it is becoming more interdisciplinary. Networks by themselves are pretty well understood but the way people use them isn’t as well understood. There is a lot experimentation going on regarding social networks like Facebook and the way people interact when using these networks. It sort of leads then how people think and work together, and even to biology. So there is a continuum from networks to sociology, from modeling of the brain to biology to how humans work and how machines could be more like humans. How machines could be more intelligent and easier to interact with. So that’s the general direction that I think will be quite exciting over the next 30 years.
Q: What technology that’s currently under development are you most anxious or excited to see completed?
A: Definitely systems are getting much more intelligent and more responsive. There is also easier to use technology for humans to interact with and to improve the quality of their life, so they don’t have to be annoyed with how Microsoft Word works. There have been a lot of improvements, but it should be more or less seamless, so people don’t really have to pay attention to the technology they’re using to communicate. It’s pretty inexpensive when it’s mass distributed, and it could help the world’s quality of life. Sort of a green way to interact.