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Aug 14

InSITE fellow Mike Lekas wins $100,000 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship

Michael Lekas, a 3rd year PhD candidate in the department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University, and current research and development intern at Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs, has won a Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship for his work related to wireless communications.

The $100,000 fellowship is awarded each year to PhD students across a broad range of technical fields, recognizing and rewarding their innovative ideas for communications research. This year, 110 teams submitted proposals from universities such as Stanford, Berkley and MIT, 32 were asked to give presentations on their proposal to Qualcomm directors, and 8 teams were selected to receive the final award.

Mike, together with his co-author Sunwoo Lee, also a Columbia PhD student, won the award for their proposal “CMOS Compatible Graphene Nanoelectromechanical Systems for Next Generation RF Design”.

The main problem they are attempting to address with this research is the increasing congestion of the wireless spectrum due to the huge amounts of data users are now moving though cellular networks. One potential solution to this problem is to design versatile wireless devices that can operate over a wide frequency range and actively search for unused bandwidth, in order to make more efficient use of the spectrum. Unfortunately, creating wireless hardware with this capability is a huge technological hurdle.

Mike and Sunwoo have begun work on a new type of electronic filter that should make the task of designing flexible wireless hardware much easier. The filter is an electromechanical device made from a material called graphene, which is a single atom thick layer of carbon atoms. The prototypes they have created consist of a sheet of carbon, about a billionth of a meter thick and a millionth of a meter wide, that is suspended like a bridge between two electrodes; when electrical signals (i.e. those coming to your cell phone) are applied to the bridge it shakes or resonates at a particular frequency and acts as a filter, blocking out interfering signals and noise.

This type of filter is unique because it’s much smaller and much more flexible in terms of its frequency range than existing filter technology.

To read more visit the Columbia School of Engineering website: http://engineering.columbia.edu/using-graphene-make-wireless-communications-more-flexible

Graphene general info: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2010/press.html

Fellowship info: http://www.qualcomm.com/research/university-relations/innovation-fellowship-2012

 Post written by Michael Lekas (Electrical Engineering at Columbia University) and Lila Pla Alemany (Columbia Business School 2013).

About The Author

The InSITE Fellowship is a highly competitive leadership development program comprised of exceptional graduate students at top universities. InSITE Fellows and alumni make up a global network of entrepreneurs and leaders in technology and venture capital.

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