ECE Prof. Yasamin Mostofi’s research featured in The UCSB Current article “Crowd Counting through Walls through WiFi”

September 24th, 2018

image from video of crowd counting research
The new methodology and experimental results were presented by Mostofi at the 2018 IEEE 15th Annual IEEE International Conference on Sensing, Communication, and Networking (SECON)

Researchers in UC Santa Barbara professor Yasamin Mostofi’s lab have given the first demonstration of crowd counting through walls using only everyday communication signals such as WiFi. The technique, which requires only a wireless transmitter and receiver outside the area of interest, could have a variety of applications, including smart energy management, retail business planning and security.

“Our proposed approach makes it possible to estimate the number of people inside a room from outside,” said Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. “This approach utilizes only WiFi RSSI measurements and does not rely on people to carry a device.”

In the team’s experiments, one WiFi transmitter and one WiFi receiver are behind walls, outside a room in which a number of people are present. The room can get very crowded with as many as 20 people zigzagging each other. The transmitter sends a wireless signal whose received signal strength (RSSI) is measured by the receiver. Using only such received signal power measurements, the receiver estimates how many people are inside the room — an estimate that closely matches the actual number. It is noteworthy that the researchers do not do any prior measurements or calibration in the area of interest; their approach has only a very short calibration phase that need not be done in the same area.

This development builds on previous work in the Mostofi Lab, which has pioneered sensing with everyday radio frequency signals such as WiFi, with several publications in this area since 2009. For instance, their 2015 paper showed crowd counting without relying on people to carry a device, but with the transmitter and receiver in the same area as the people.

“However, enabling through-wall crowd counting is considerably more challenging due to the high level of attenuation by the walls,” said Mostofi. Her lab’s success in this endeavor is due to the new proposed methodology they developed.

The UCSB Current – “Crowd Counting through Walls through WiFi” (full article)

"Through-Wall Crowd Counting with WiFi, Without Relying on People to Carry a Device" (YouTube)

Mostofi Lab's research on Crowd Counting Through Walls with WiFi

More about Mostofi and her research

ECE Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Klamkin’s DARPA Young Faculty Award in The UCSB Current article “Rising Research Stars”

September 6th, 2018

photo of Jonathan Klamkin
Two UCSB junior engineering faculty members ECE Assoc. Prof. Klamkin and CS Asst. Prof. William Wang join 34 other up-and-coming researchers for 2018 the prestigious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award

“We’re extremely proud of William Wang and Jonathan Klamkin for receiving their DARPA Young Faculty Awards, and we offer them enthusiastic congratulations on this recognition of their outstanding achievements,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering. “They continue a strong tradition of junior faculty being recognized for outstanding work, and in doing so, ensure that UCSB engineering is in good hands for the future.”

Smarter, Faster, More Efficient – ECE Associate Professor Jonathan Klamkin

Modern life changed in the mid-20th century when the electronic integrated circuit took the world by storm, bringing advances in computing and the many devices made possible by that feat of engineering. Today we stand at the cusp of a similar revolution, this time with photonic integrated circuits, which transfer information with light instead of electricity. Not only can light carry more information, but it can sense and process information in innovative ways.

Klamkin, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is among those working to bring about the photonics revolution. With his DARPA project “ASPIC (Attojoule Sources for Photonic Integrated Circuits),” he aims to address the energy consumption issues associated with lasers, the sources of light in photonic integrated circuits. Confronting that challenge is a must if photonic integrated circuits are to be reliable and to reach their potential for the large-scale integration associated with electronic integrated circuits.

“We aim to drastically reduce the power consumption of laser diodes that provide the optical sources for photonic integrated circuits,” said Klamkin, who leads the Integrated Photonics Laboratory at UCSB. “Such a luxury would make photonic circuits ubiquitous in the same way that electronic circuits have become a mainstay in computers, smartphones, medical instruments, sensors and automobiles.”

“It is an honor to receive this award,” Klamkin said. “DARPA is highly recognized for its commitment to cutting-edge research. I’ve had the privilege to work with DARPA for more than 15 years on various programs and this award represents a unique opportunity for students and me to investigate truly foundational technology. I’m also excited for the interactions we will have with our terrific program manager and for the interesting events and site visits organized for the young investigators under this program.”

Klamkin, who joined the UCSB faculty in 2015, is also the recipient of a NASA Early Career Faculty award. He and his group have been recognized with several best paper awards. Klamkin has authored or coauthored more than 180 papers, holds several patents and has delivered more than 60 invited talks and tutorials.

About the DARPA Young Faculty Award

The objective of the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program is to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions and introduce them to Department of Defense needs as well as DARPA’s program development process.

The UCSB Current – "Rising Research Stars" (full article)

Klamkin's COE Profile

Integrated Photonics Laboratory (iPL)

ECE Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Klamkin’s thoughts on grad students and collaborative research in COE Convergence article “Oh, to be Young (And Interdisciplinary)”

August 14th, 2018

photos of four coe collaborators
Klamkin gives his thoughts on UCSB graduate students benefiting from working on the front lines of collaborative research

Students are among those who benefit most from the collaborative orientation of engineering and the sciences at UC Santa Barbara. Graduate students, especially, gain a great advantage from being co-advised by multiple faculty members in different departments, exposing them to a broad range of perspectives, knowledge, tools, and techniques. And because UCSB lacks the kind of research fiefdoms common at many universities, students become part of a dynamic collaborative exchange with their fellow graduate students. As a result, graduate students, who are on the front lines of research, regularly provide key insights and breakthroughs.

Jonathan Klamkin earned his PhD at UCSB (Professor Emeritus Larry Coldren was his advisor) but is also familiar with what he refers to as “the traditional university model in the U.S., where professors have their own labs and the door’s closed, and it’s not as collaborative.”

At UCSB, he says, “It’s different. We work on really tough projects that one person can’t do alone. Students work together, and the net product is something they all benefit from, not just because it’s so cutting edge, but also because they learned to work together.” Citing that familiarity with collaborative group work, he adds, “There’s definitely a concentration of UCSB graduates in industry, because they’re productive and entrepreneurial and know how to work as a team to make a finished product.”

COE Convergence "Oh, to be Young (And Interdisciplinary)" (full article)

Klamkin's COE Profile

Integrated Photonics Laboratory (iPL)

ECE Professor Joao Hespanha’s research featured in The UCSB Current article “Toward a Secure Electrical Grid”

July 20th, 2018

illustration of locked electrical grid
UCSB professor João Hespanha suggests a way to protect autonomous grids from potentially crippling GPS spoofing attacks

Not long ago, getting a virus was about the worst thing computer users could expect in terms of system vulnerability. But in our current age of hyper-connectedness and the emerging Internet of Things, that’s no longer the case. With connectivity, a new principle has emerged, one of universal concern to those who work in the area of systems control, like João Hespanha, a professor in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. That law says, essentially, that the more complex and connected a system is, the more susceptible it is to disruptive cyber-attacks.

“It is about something much different than your regular computer virus,” Hespanha said. “It is more about cyber physical systems — systems in which computers are connected to physical elements. That could be robots, drones, smart appliances, or infrastructure systems such as those used to distribute energy and water.”

In a paper titled “Distributed Estimation of Power System Oscillation Modes under Attacks on GPS Clocks,” published this month in the journal IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, Hespanha and co-author Yongqiang Wang (a former UCSB postdoctoral research and now a faculty member at Clemson University) suggest a new method for protecting the increasingly complex and connected power grid from attack.

The UCSB Current – "Toward a Secure Electrical Grid" (full article)

Hespanha's research page

Hespanha's COE Profile

ECE Prof. Manjunath and director of the UCSB Center for Multimodal Big Data Science & Healthcare research featured in the COE’s Convergence magazine

June 26th, 2018

illustration of big data
UCSB researchers awarded a $3.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to fund a broadly interdisciplinary Large-scale IMage Processing Development (LIMPID) project

Increasingly, big data and its partner, machine learning, are driving and enabling collaboration. Advances in sensors, cameras, scientific instrumentation, software platforms, deep neural networks, and computing power have made the promise of artificial intelligence real. The results show up in platforms that can identify patterns and scour meaning from millions or even billions of data points to better understand and manage a vast range of dynamical systems, from smart buildings and new materials to human biology and social systems.

Big data can take the form of simple data points that record, say, click-throughs on websites or entries on a spreadsheet, or it can be digital imagery, such as video, photographs, remotely sensed lidar images, or microscopy images. UCSB researchers are on the front lines of this data-fueled revolution, developing systems that make such multimodal big data a powerful tool for engineering.

According to B. S. Manjunath, professor in the Department of UCSB Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the campus’s Center for Multimodal Big Data Science and Healthcare, big-data approaches require three main elements: experts in the field under study who can frame the research questions and form hypotheses; computational-science experts to design algorithms and data structures; and information-processing experts to address the signaling and information-theory components. 

Because so much science-related data takes the form of digital images, the center was awarded the NSF grant to fund the LIMPID project with the work based on a platform called BisQue (Bio-Image Semantic Query User Environment), developed by Manjunath’s group. BisQue had its roots in microscopy imaging and was developed to support a wide range of image informatics research for the life sciences. With its ability to process databases and perform image analysis, BisQue makes it easy to share, distribute, and collaborate around large image datasets.

“You can think of BisQue as Google Docs for scientific images,” Manjunath notes. “Imaging data has become ubiquitous, and much of big-data science is image-centric. Working with such data should be as simple as working with text files in Google Docs, so that people can collaborate and share information in real time. Not too many places have that kind of infrastructure for data science. It has taken us twelve years to build, and it’s something that sets us apart.”

COE Convergence – "The Long Reach of Big Data" (full article)

Manjunath's COE Profile

Center for Multimodal Big Data Science and Healthcare

2018 College of Engineering, ECE Department and Computer Engineering Program honors

June 20th, 2018

graduation at the commencement green

Seniors, graduate students and faculty recognized by ECE, CE and COE


UCSB Winifred and Louis Lancaster Dissertation Award for Mathematics, Physical Sciences & Engineering
A Lancaster dissertation award in Mathematics, Physical Sciences & Engineering is given every other year and entered into a national competition sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools – award recipients are members of the Graduate Division Commencement Ceremony’s Platform Party

  • Jiahao Kang (EE)


College of Engineering Academic Honor
Awarded to the student with the highest grade point average of the College of Engineering graduating class as of the winter quarter, who was enrolled as a full-time, matriculated UCSB student through the spring quarter, and is expected to complete all degree requirements as of the spring quarter

  • Sean McCotter (EE)

Outstanding Seniors

  • Electrical Engineering – Sean McCotter
  • Computer Engineering – Karthik Kribakaran

College of Engineering Honors Program for Academic Excellence

  • Electrical Engineering
    Bryce Ferguson, Rachel Reyes, Phanitta Chomsinsap, Jingwen Sun, Huishan Chen, Xiaowen Guo, Jenny Zeng
  • Computer Engineering
    Nathan Vandervoort


  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant: Vince Radzicki
  • Outstanding Faculty: Professor Hua Lee


  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant: Caio Motta
  • Outstanding Faculty: Professor Forrest Brewer

ECE Professor John Bowers and his non-profit Unite to Light reach 100K milestone

June 19th, 2018

unite to light celebration
This past spring, Unite to Light, the nonprofit founded by Bowers, reached a major milestone by distributing its 100,000th solar-charged LED light with solar-charging battery pack to someone who lacks safe, reliable, bright light

“Unite to Light is focused on getting light to those who could not otherwise afford it — children who are learning to read or need to study after dark, midwives — and also to health clinics and as part of disaster response,” said Unite to Light executive director, Megan Birney, in an article about the nonprofit published in the UCSB Current in 2017. “Supplying solar lights to midwives, refugees and new mothers falls squarely into our mission of providing tools for those in need so that they may have a better opportunity to survive and thrive.”

Since the nonprofit was founded in 2011, the lights have been distributed in more than 65 countries, including in Bangladesh, where they were given to Rohingya refugees — and especially pregnant women — fleeing violence in Myanmar, as well as in Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria cut out electricity on the island, and in Ghana, South Africa, Haiti, and Peru, to name several.

The lights are valuable to students who live in remote villages and may have only candles or kerosene-fueled lamp light after dark. In South Africa, high school students must pass the official school exit exam in order to graduate and have any chance of getting a job. In the nation’s KwaZulu Natal region, where the unemployment rate is around 50 percent, pass rates for the critical exam have increased by twenty to thirty percent in areas where the lights were distributed.

In the United States, lights have also been distributed to people who spend the night in cars, targeting especially school children in that group so that they can do their homework at night. Lights have also been distributed in some native-American tribal areas that lack infrastructure.

“I’m proud of the job Megan Birney is doing as president of Unite to Light in expanding our connections in Haiti and South Africa,” said John Bowers in June while participating in a 2,745-mile unsupported bicycle ride from Canada to the Mexico border to raised funds for Unite to Light. “We are seeing a twenty- to thirty-percent increase in graduation rates with students who have lights. That means we’re helping an additional thirty thousand students graduate from high school, which is really, really exciting. Our next goal is one million lights!”

College of Engineering News – "John Bowers and Unite to Light Reach 100K Milestone" (full article)

Unite to Light

Bowers' COE Profile

EE, CE and ME senior undergraduates present projects at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Engineering Design Expo (EDx)

June 19th, 2018

hyperloop team with poster
Senior students from all disciplines in the College of Engineering (COE) complete a year-long project-based capstone course and presentation event where they show engineering solutions to real-world problems and often with input from industry partners

This year, 24 projects were presented by electrical, computer and mechanical engineering students on Friday, June 8 at EDx in Corwin Pavilion where they shared results that impressed hundreds of faculty, sponsors, fellow students, parents, and guests from beyond UCSB.

Judges walked the outdoor fair, talked with the students, and then awarded top honors to the following EE and CE representatives:


  • * Hyperloop – Engineering Innovation in Electrical Engineering: the third year of the UCSB Hyperloop project and this year’s team redesigned the magnetically levitated vehicle, complete with a carbon skin. The team hopes to earn the right to “test-fly” their pod at Elon Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop track.
  • * SONOS MOVE – Excellence in EE: the first fully portable wireless speaker in the SONOS line, which features a six-hour battery pack and onboard LTE connection that allows for WiFi connectivity

* Multidisciplinary teams consisting of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering students with Hyperloop consisting of 25-plus students and SONOS Move with ten


  • Wall-E – Engineering Innovation in Computer Engineering: a Waterborne Autonomous Low Light Electrostereovideography (WALL-E). The submersible low-light camera cameras, which can be deployed in pairs, and use computer-vision techniques to analyze the courtship patterns of ostracods – tiny crustaceans that produce luminous courtship displays
  • Hover Hand – Excellence in EE: a glove that acts as the transmitter to a drone’s receiver, enabling the pilot to fly a quadcopter drone in a way that is more intuitive and precise

The UCSB Current – “Capstone 2018” (full article)

COE News – “Proving Ground for Engineering Seniors” (full article & ME awardees)

COE Capstone website

ECE Capstone Course webpage (ECE 188)

CE Capstone Course webpage (ECE 189)

ECE Professor and ComSenTer Director, Mark Rodwell interviewed in IEEE Spectrum article “It’s Never Too Early To Think About 6G”

June 1st, 2018

ieee spectrum logo with 6g image
UCSB is lead institution of the Center for Converged TeraHertz Communications and Sensing (ComSenTer) – a multi-university research effort into the fundamentals of what 6G might look like

5G will utilize higher frequency spectrum than previous generations in order to improve data rates and insomuch as anyone has an idea of what 6G might look like, it’s a good bet that it will take that same tack.

“It’s not clear what 6G will be,” says Sundeep Rangan, the director of NYU Wireless, one of the institutions participating in ComSenTer. “If it is the case that 6G or other communications systems can benefit from very, very high frequency transmissions, we need to start looking at that now.”

Rangan adds that, “It’s premature to say that what we’re looking at will definitely be part of 6G,” stressing that what’s being investigated now is still fundamental research.

Even so, Mark Rodwell, ComSenTer’s director and a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, says there are a few key demonstration projects ComSenTer is looking into. The first involves building a base station that can handle the frequency ranges expected to be part of future generations of wireless. ComSenTer, which is being funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation, a consortium of heavy-hitters like DARPA, IBM, and Intel, is focusing its efforts on the 140-gigahertz, 220-GHz, and 340-GHz frequencies—all significantly higher than the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band being leveraged for 5G.

Rodwell envisions a base station that could emit up to a thousand beams simultaneously. “What you’re looking at is four surfaces, each capable of 250 simultaneous beams,” he says. If each beam provided 10 gigabits per second, a single base station could transfer 10 terabits every second.

The higher frequencies also present challenges for handsets. The higher-frequency receiver components must be packed more closely together, introducing a risk of overheating. Signal loss must also be addressed. “Packet loss is phenomenally extensive at these frequencies,” says Rodwell.

The third major challenge is a question of math. “When a signal comes in [from a particular] direction, it’s hitting all the antennas,” says Rodwell. “Massive numbers of beams mean a lot of number crunching. You’ve got to sort all that out.”

ComSenTer is part of the new $200 million, five-year JUMP (Joint University Microelectronics Program), a consortium of industry research participants and DARPA, administered by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). The partnership will fund research centers at six top research universities: UCSB, CMU, Purdue, UVA, U. of Michigan and Notre Dame.

IEEE Spectrum – "It’s Never Too Early To Think About 6G" (full article)

Center for Converged TeraHertz Communications and Sensing (ComSenTer)

Rodwell's COE Profile

ECE Professor Yon Visell and UCSB researchers develop a fast, low-voltage actuator for soft and wearable robotics

May 23rd, 2018

image from the cover of AFM
Visell, chemistry & biochemistry professor Thuc-Quyen Nguyen and postdocs Thanh Nho Do and Hung Phan author paper that appears on the cover of the journal Advanced Functional Materials

In the world of robotics, soft robots are the new kids on the block. The unique capabilities of these automata are to bend, deform, stretch, twist or squeeze in all the ways that conventional rigid robots cannot.

Today, it is easy to envision a world in which humans and robots collaborate — in close proximity — in many realms. Emerging soft robots may help to ensure that this can be done safely, and in a way that syncs to human environments or even interfaces with humans themselves.

“Some of the advantages of soft robotic systems are that they can easily adapt to unstructured environments, or to irregular or soft surfaces, such as the human body,” said UC Santa Barbara electrical and computer engineering professor Yon Visell.

Despite their promise, to date, most soft robots move slowly and clumsily when compared with many conventional robots. However, the gap is narrowing thanks to new developments in the fundamental unit of robotic motion: the actuator. Responsible for the mechanical movement of a mechanism or a machine, actuators do their work in various ways, relying on electromagnetic, piezoelectric, pneumatic or other forces.

Now, Visell and his UCSB collaborators have married the electromagnetic drives used in most conventional robotic systems with soft materials, in order to achieve both speed and softness. “An interesting biological analog to the actuator described in our new work might be a fast twitch muscle,” said Visell who along with Professor Thuc-Quyen Nguyen and the postdocs, authored the paper “Soft Electromagnetic Actuators for Robotic Applications.”

The main challenge for Visell and colleagues was to build an actuator that could achieve speeds greater than what has typically been possible with soft robotic actuators, many of which depend on slow processes, such as air flow or thermal effects.

“In this project, we wanted to see how far we could push the idea of having very fast, low-voltage actuation within a fully soft robotic paradigm,” he said. They based their work on the electromagnetic motor, a common type of fast and low-voltage actuator that is used in everything from electric cars to appliances, but has seen little effective application in soft robotic systems.

The team’s work has resulted in a type of actuator that is fast, low voltage and soft — and also remarkably small, just a few millimeters in size. Using unique, liquid-metal alloy conductors encased in hollow polymer fibers and magnetized polymer composites, the researchers created patterned, three-dimensional components that form the basis of soft analogs of standard electrical motors. The fibers themselves are polymer composites that the team engineered to have high thermal conductivity, greatly improving their performance.

The UCSB Current – "Soft Machines" (full article)

Visell's COE Profile

Visell's RE Touch Lab