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All things to all people

Engineering's Canada Research Chair aiming for universal connectivity

By Jackey Locke

Part of an ongoing series of Gazette stories celebrating researchers who received support as part of a major investment by the federal government in arts and science on March 13.

Communication with family, friends and colleagues is instantaneous in our connected world.

But, the technology we depend on must be properly developed and maintained to satisfy the growing demands of next-generation communication networks.

That is the focus of Dr. Octavia Dobre’s research.

Dr. Dobre, a professor and interim dean at Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has been appointed a tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in ubiquitous connectivity.

CRC appointments are among the country’s highest honours for research excellence.

Tier 1 chairs are valued at $200,000 per year for seven years, with the possibility of one seven-year renewal.

In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation is investing $78,655 to support Dr. Dobre’s research program through its John R. Evans Leaders Fund, as part of its partnership with the Canada Research Chairs program.

Next-generation networks

As the current generation of wireless networks is deployed around the world, new applications are emerging that will further transform our economy and society, imposing stringent requirements on wireless networks.

These requirements create challenges for wireless networks, which are not new, but are increasing at an unparalleled pace.

“Networks need to become faster, more reliable and more energy-efficient to enable a high density of users, but to also connect the unconnected.” — Dr. Octavia Dobre

For almost two decades, Dr. Dobre and her research group have been at the forefront of communication technology development, pioneering various methods to satisfy the requirements of these next-generation networks.

As CRC, Dr. Dobre will create and develop a unique and vibrant research program at Memorial to help solve technical challenges.

Her goal is to create wireless networks without limitations that have the omnipresence to be all things to all people.

Dr. Octavia Dobre leans against a glass railing smiling and wearing a dark dress with a nech scarf.
Dr. Octavia A. Dobre
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Information and communication technology (ICT) has significantly advanced during the past two decades, impacting a plethora of vertical industries and sectors, such as energy, transportation, manufacturing and health,” said Dr. Dobre. “More stringent requirements are imposed to the communication networks by the massive increase in the number and variety of devices, as well as the new services like X reality, which includes augmented, mixed and virtual realities.”

She says networks need to become faster, more reliable and more energy-efficient to enable a high density of users, but also to connect the unconnected — and all with resource constraints.

“The impact of my research is fourfold: to advance communication technologies to support future services; to provide knowledge transfer to industry; to train highly qualified personnel; and to further place Memorial as a leader in the ICT field.”

Dr. Dobre says her CRC appointment, in the faculty’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, represents a great opportunity not only for Memorial University to strengthen capacity in one of its strategic research areas, but also for the country.

There is an opportunity to enhance Canada’s competitiveness and have a national and international impact on the development of the next generation of wireless networks, she says.

“My research will support and intensify the efforts to position Canada as a leader in the knowledge-based digital economy while shaping the global governance of emerging information and communication technologies.”

World-renowned expert

Dr. Dobre joined Memorial in 2005. She has trained more than 110 highly qualified personnel since that time.

Her research interests encompass wireless communications and networking technologies, as well as optical and underwater communications.

Her research has been supported by various funding agencies and industry. She has been an international collaborator on several European projects, such as Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

Dr. Dobre has been a Fulbright Scholar, Royal Society Scholar and a distinguished lecturer of the IEEE Communications Society.

She is an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, a fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the IEEE.

She serves as vice-president of the Publications of the Communications Society, was the founding editor-in-chief of the IEEE Open Journal of the Communications Society and of the IEEE Communications Letters, and the inaugural chair of the Women in Communications Engineering standing committee.

CRC program

The Canada Research Chairs Program stands at the centre of a national strategy to make Canada one of the world’s top countries in research and development.

The program is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat.

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