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Olin is Among Researchers Awarded $25M for NSF Spectrum Innovation Center

Olin is among 29 research institutions, led by the University of Notre Dame, to receive a 5-year, $25 million grant from the NSF Spectrum Innovation Initiative to create SpectrumX – The National Center for Spectrum Innovation. Dr. Whitney Lohmeyer, assistant professor of engineering at Olin, will serve as one of five SpectrumX Co-PIs.

Professor Whitney Lohmeyer is one of five SpectrumX Co-PIs.

Dr. Whitney Lohmeyer, assistant professor of engineering, will serve as one of five SpectrumX Co-PIs. Photo by Leise Jones.

In the United States and around the world, radio frequencies are allocated to a variety of services such as mobile broadband, broadcasting and navigation (GPS) that are now mainstream and widely used. But the increasing demands of commercial wireless, especially 5G networks, as well as the greater needs of scientific, satellite and defense applications, among others, require paradigm shifts in management of the radio spectrum and in coordination of research and development around it.

To address these concerns, the SpectrumX project is bringing together experts from 29 organizations to transform the landscape of spectrum research, education, collaboration and management.

“Spectrum science and the wireless industry is in dire need of young, diverse talent,” said Lohmeyer. “Olin is thrilled to be part of a center that addresses that need through undergraduate research and educational experiences in a way that moves the industry forward and focuses on public and private partnerships and workforce development.”

The Olin team will work closely with the rest of the SpectrumX team to construct a vision for the center, specify research directions and educational initiatives, fill in gaps in expertise needed to carry them out, and engage broad cross-sections of the research community as well as stakeholders in industry, government, and regulatory bodies to ensure a robust, innovative center develops as a result.

“I strongly believe the future of our education is one that depends on the collaboration of academia and industry working hand in hand to provide undergraduates with real work and educational experience, not just in their senior year, but from the beginning of their undergraduate years,” said Lohmeyer. “The spectrum research center and the funds it provides will enable this future to exist.”

Lohmeyer and a team of Olin students have been working toward this outcome for the past year. In the Summer of 2020, Lohmeyer and six Olin students (Utsav Gupta ’21, Argyris Kriezis ‘22, Olivia Seitelman ‘22, Celvi Lisy ‘23, Regan Mah ‘23, Rohil Agarwal ’23) formed the Olin Satellite + Spectrum Technology & Policy Group (OSSTP).

That summer, the OSSTP team worked on a variety of projects in the satellite systems and spectrum policy space that culminated in two research papers that were submitted to the 2021 AIAA-IEEE Aerospace Conference, a revised curriculum for the Satellite Systems, and a new curriculum for an Antenna Theory course. Lohmeyer, with significant support from Utsav, submitted a detailed NSF proposal in response to the NSF’s call for proposals for the SII Center Planning Grant. In early August 2020, OSSTP team was notified that their proposal was one of the sixteen selected to receive funding (read more here). This funding allowed OSSTP to pursue collaborative opportunities with potential partners, meet with federal stakeholders to incorporate their priorities into the center vision, and engage in exploratory research around interference and coexistence of different spectrum user communities.

Olin College of Engineering campus

The Miller Academic Center in 2021. Photo by Leise Jones.

The group continued to work throughout the 2020-21 academic year and, along with SpectrumX collaborators, to submit the full NSF Center proposal in April 2021.

“Today we announce the award of the NSF SpectrumX Center. With these funds OSSTP will work with academic and industry collaborators to continue researching methods for spectrum sharing, coexistence and interference mitigation while focusing on workforce development and advancing wireless curriculum across the nation,” said Lohmeyer.

The SpectrumX team is led by Notre Dame (PI: Professor Nicholas Laneman). Other partners are Agnes Scott College, Clemson University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New York University, Norfolk State University, Northwestern University, Olin College of Engineering, South Carolina State University, Spelman College, Stanford University, Texas Tech University, University of Albany, University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Pittsburgh, University of Puerto Rico de Mayaguez, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of the Virgin Islands, University of Virginia, University of the West Indies and Virginia Diodes Inc.

This is Lohmeyer’s third NSF award in three years; In addition to the NSF SII Planning Grant, in 2019, she received a four-year, $4 million collaborative grant with the University of Colorado-Boulder, Stanford University, Georgia Tech, University of Southern Alabama and Western Michigan University. The Space Weather Atmospheric Reconfigurable Multiscale Experiment (SWARM-EX) project provides an important step in the advancement of designing and building CubeSat constellations for space weather (read more here).