Between smart phones, wireless Internet access and other modern technologies, it can sometimes seem like people are virtually tethered to their communications devices. But few people ever stop to wonder what makes those devices work.
Shalinee Kishore is one of those people.
Kishore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, studies digital and wireless communications, communication theory and signal processing.
“You have all kinds of devices that communicate with each other, whether it’s cell phones or computers or environmental sensors,” she says. “I focus on enabling that communication. For example, I’m looking at how we can take information and convert it into efficient wireless signals.”
She likes this area of research because it’s a practical problem and because it allows for theoretical and mathematical approaches. But she’s especially excited about her work because of its societal impact: Communications devices are becoming more essential every day, but they’re not available to everybody. She’s working to increase this access.
“In academics, you could work in a silo and just do your own thing for your entire career, but if you can do something that actually impacts other people, that allows you to have meaning in your profession and in your life,” she explains.
In the last few years, Kishore has also expanded her research to the power grid, because the energy industry has started to integrate communications infrastructure with the grid to improve performance and operate more flexibly.
“One of the greatest needs in our society is energy and we need to find a way to use energy more efficiently,” she says. “I’m drawn to problems that have these kinds of impacts.”
Kishore is part of Lehigh’s Integrated Networks for Electricity faculty cluster, a multidisciplinary team of engineers, mathematicians and economists who are working on developing more environmentally friendly electricity systems.
She also teaches classes on smart grid technology, in addition to her regular courses on circuits and systems and wireless communications. Because the smart grid class is interdisciplinary, it draws students from beyond the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.
“I convey the information I know, but I also learn from these students who have very varied interests,” says Kishore.
“I try to encourage discussion and create an environment in which students feel comfortable to question the basics. In a classroom where students can challenge the professor, the students learn more, and so do I.”
This gives her a fresh perspective on her research. Working with undergraduates in her lab has the same effect. She’s worked with several students who joined her lab in their junior years and stayed to get their master’s degrees at Lehigh.
Still, Kishore chose to work at Lehigh because it emphasizes teaching as much as research. As part of her interview process, she met with students and taught a class, something she wasn’t expected to do at other universities.
“With a heavy focus on research, you can lose the core value of teaching,” she says. “But I don’t think you lose that here at Lehigh. Engaging students and making an impact on their lives is the best part of my job.”