Huacheng Zeng, a Virginia Tech doctoral student studying electrical and computer engineering, received the Best Student Paper Award at the ninth Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Conference on Underwater Networks and Systems, held recently in Rome, Italy. 

The Best Student Paper Award was the only award given in the paper category at the conference.

Zeng’s paper, “Shark-IA: An interference alignment algorithm for multi-hop underwater acoustic networks with large propagation delays,’’ was co-authored by his Ph.D. advisor Tom Hou, Bradley Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; former Virginia Tech student Yi Shi; Wenjing Lou, professor of computer science; Sastry Kompella, a former Virginia Tech student and now section head at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory; and Scott F. Midkiff, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Virginia Tech and professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

Zeng and his co-authors examined the slow signal travel speed in water, by which acoustic communications in underwater environment typically experience large propagation delays.  

According to Hou, “such large propagation delays are regarded as a major hindrance to throughput (measured in bits/second).” But Zeng and his co-authors turned the table around in their paper and explored the potential benefits large propagation delays might offer. 

They demonstrated that, when properly designed, large propagation delays could facilitate the realization of interference alignment, which Hou said is a novel technology to address interference during communications. He said the writers “showed that delay-based interference alignment had the potential to significantly improve throughput for underwater communications.” 

According to Hou, this finding suggests a new research direction in underwater communications.

The ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks and Systems is devoted to research on underwater networks and network-related signal processing, communications, systems, and applications. 

“Our students have been doing world-class research in wireless communications and networking and have been recognized by a number of awards from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the past," said Hou. "But a best student paper award from ACM is still rare. This award is an important recognition of the quality of our students’ research."

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