Engineer at UMass Amherst Receives Grant to Study High-Speed Wireless Communications

AMHERST, Mass - Dennis L. Goeckel, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, has received $200,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue his research in high-speed wireless communications. The highly competitive, four-year CAREER award is aimed at supporting the work of young faculty members.

Goeckel''s research is in communications theory - specifically, the mathematics behind cell phones. "I don''t design the cell phones," Goeckel said, "but I use mathematics to tell what signals to send from a cell phone to get the best reception - and on the flip side, at the cell phone tower how to recover the voice."

Cell phones work by sending a signal to a tower that will then relay the signal to its end destination through wired communication lines. That one signal is reflected by objects in the environment between the phone and the tower, causing multiple copies of the signal to arrive at differing times. What reaches the cell-phone tower bears little resemblance to the original signal, and that''s where Goeckel''s work and the work of his colleagues becomes important: "We make the signals come together," he said, which can be the difference between a normal conversation and one filled with static.

With the rapidly growing number of cell-phone users and the limited amount of bandwidth available for signals, the mathematics becomes crucial. Goeckel and his colleagues work with models of each channel to determine "the signals to send such that the system works best," he said.

Goeckel earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and joined the College of Engineering in 1996.