Radio Signals, Diabetes, Beavers: Just Another Graduate Research Colloquium

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

Graduate students discussed their work at the recent colloquium.
Graduate students discussed their work at the recent colloquium.

Graduate students from across campus trotted out their research and explained the unexplainable at the latest Graduate Research Colloquium at the Memorial Union Building, with more 25 posters accompanying the two days of presentations.

Suryabh Sharma, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, discussed his work, which might not see the light of day for 20 to 25 years. His work is guided by associate professor Gerry Tian.

Realizing that the spectrum of open radio signals is finite, in both frequency and bandwith, there needs to be “cognitive radio networks” developed, Sharma said. “These will be able to use a part of the spectrum at a certain time that is unutilized or underutilized, based on time or space,” he explained.

Cell phones, for example, will have to be developed with enough computing ability inside to find these unused frequencies. Sharma’s project was to calculate the probability of success, with best and worst case scenarios, in an algorithm, “gathering data and making it meaningful data.”

His answer? “It is feasible.”

So, someday--in theory-- we’ll never have to worry about not being able to connect to the wireless grid. 

Nearby, physics graduate student Archana Pandey was describing how implantable nano-devices could be used as glucose sensors in diabetics. In addition to helping people stay healthy, Pandey described an additional benefit.

“Miniature biofuel cells could also be implanted and convert glucose from the initial nanodevice into energy,” she said.

This could be especially helpful to diabetics, who sometimes lack energy, which can impact their eating habits, Pandey added.

One problem: the devices work fine when cooled, but body temperatures are too hot. But, she is still working on it with help from teammates Abhishek Prasad and Jason Moscatello, Abhry Singh and advisor Yoke Kin Yap.

“I inherited my work,” says Mark Romanski of the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. And famous work it is: research on inhabitants of Isle Royale--in this instance, beavers.

Continuing work of Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich and others, Romanski investigated how data is collected on the beaver populations. It is a classic research quandary, he said: "How do we know the numbers are accurate?" Romanski looked at “double-count surveys,” in which two researchers  both attempt to count the same population of a species. Beginning his work in 2006, he discovered a large discrepancy in numbers of beavers counted previously.

“We used smaller aircraft in later surveys than they did in earlier ones,” he said. “When our numbers came back much lower in the planes that should allow for more accurate sightability—slower speeds and lower flights—we realized that sightability from the larger planes was grossly overestimated.”

More than a study of how to do a study, Romanski’s work helps complete the puzzle of the complicated ecosystem on the island.

He also included a couple of tidbits of Isle Royale wildlife trivia: moose and beaver have a similar appetite for foliage, and wolves have an appetite for beaver.

“The wolves wait near the beavers' lodges until they come out,” he says. “They know where they live.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.