Biography of Thyaga Nandagopal

IEEE is hosting its third annual 5G World Forum from September 10 to 12, 2020. The conference, which will be entirely virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to provide a platform for nurturing and cultivating 5G technologies for society’s benefit. 

In this biography of Thyaga Nandagopal, readers can learn about one of the 5G World Forum’s keynote speakers. Dr. Nandagopal has more than eighteen years of experience in the wireless technology industry. With this experience and his numerous accomplishments in wireless network research, Dr. Nandagopal is well poised to offer insight into this year’s conference theme—5G and Beyond: A Comprehensive Look at Future Networks. 

Background in networking and engineering 

Dr. Nandagopal’s expertise in wireless technology stems from his education in the engineering field. His numerous engineering degrees have created a strong foundation for his continued involvement in the field through research and foundation work.

Dr. Nandagopal started his electrical engineering education in Chennai, India, at Anna University, where he received a bachelor of engineering degree in electronics and communication engineering. After his undergraduate education, Dr. Nandagopal earned two master of science degrees—one in applied mathematics and one in computer engineering— from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He then continued his education at UIUC, earning a PhD in electrical engineering in 2002.

Research areas and patents

After completing his doctoral degree, Dr. Nandagopal started working at the networking research division of Bell Labs, the research arm of Lucent Technologies, which later became Alcatel-Lucent. His research interests here included networking in the cloud, green networking, and software-defined networks. He also conducted extensive research on wireless ad hoc networks, including mesh networks, and radio frequency identification systems. In doing so, he focused his research on algorithms to enable efficient system operation.

Dr. Nandagopal’s research at Bell Labs led him to the first of what would prove to be many patents for innovations in electrical engineering. In total, he has thirty-nine approved US patents as well as several patents pending. The patents cover numerous innovations in cloud networks—for example, new methods for managing the storage of data blocks in a cloud file system, achieving a distributed security system in a cloud network, and reducing latency and cost in resilient cloud file systems. 

Research publications

In addition to amassing a sizable collection of patents, Dr. Nandagopal has contributed to numerous publications. In total, his publications include twelve journal articles, thirty-two conference papers, three editorials, and two book chapters. 

Notably, Dr. Nandagopal has published many articles in IEEE journals. His first journal publication, for example, was an article on fair queuing in wireless networks in the IEEE Personal Communications journal. Since then, IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing and IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking have also featured his work. These publications, along with a host of related research on cutting-edge network technologies, are available in IEEE’s Xplore digital library.

Current work and position

After leaving Bell Labs in 2012, Dr. Nandagopal started working for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Specifically, he started managing wireless networking and mobile computing research within the Networking Technologies and Systems program at the NSF. 

From this initial program work, Dr. Nandagopal transitioned to one of the NSF’s seven directorates—the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). Currently, he serves as the deputy division director for the division of computing and communication foundations within the CISE. 

While holding this position, Dr. Nandagopal has played a role in several other crosscutting programs at the NSF and helped build new research coalitions. Notably, he helped establish the Platform for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program. 

Concurrent to his work at the NSF, Dr. Nandagopal has also played an important role in professional organizations such as the IEEE and research groups such as the Wireless Spectrum Interagency Working Group (WSRD IWG). He served as an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, and in 2016, he earned the distinction of being named a Fellow of the IEEE. As part of the WSRD IWG, Dr. Nandagopal helps coordinate spectrum-related research and development activities across eighteen participating federal agencies. 

The possibilities and limitations of 5G

Through the PAWR program at the NSF, Dr. Nandagopal has been a part of exciting real-world testing of research and precommercial concepts related to 5G technologies. This program is overseeing testing platforms in Salt Lake City and New York City. These platforms are testing technologies including massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology, millimeter-wave communication systems, and edge computing. All of these are poised to play an important role in 5G and the future of wireless communication

While contributing to 5G research and development, however, Dr. Nandagopal urges caution in relation to the hype surrounding 5G technology. Many tout the massive connectivity, low latency, and unprecedented bandwidth that 5G promises and herald an exciting future in global connectivity. But Dr. Nandagopal suggests that realizing the potential of 5G technology will not be easy or instantaneous. Continued research and innovation are necessary to overcome numerous challenges, such as the cost of 5G infrastructure and service, that currently stand in the way of this potential.

Addressing these challenges—as well as shining a spotlight on exciting possibilities with 5G—will be a core focus of this year’s 5G World Forum. To learn more about Dr. Nandagopal’s perspective on the future of 5G technology, register for the event and be sure to listen to his keynote address, scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on September 10.

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