People of ACM European Chapters - Poonam Yadav

January 23, 2020

Can you briefly describe your own line of research and how you became interested in this area?

My current research is focused on making the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing-based distributed systems resilient, reliable and robust. This is an interdisciplinary research area that requires expertise in system design and integration along with knowledge of sensor systems, wireless networking, and domain and contextual understanding. To achieve resilience and reliability in the area of resource constraints and distributed systems, I focus on coordination and collaboration using interactions among machines, humans and data entities. These interactions could be categorized as machine-to-machine (M2M), machine-to-human (M2H), and human-to-data (H2D), and involve many challenges such as collaborative trust, privacy, legibility and accountability.

I became interested in this research area during my Master’s thesis, working on achieving time-synchronization in loosely coupled resource-constrained sensor devices. I understood the challenge of making a reliable sensor system using unreliable power-constrained sensor devices. This work led me to continue this research during my PhD thesis, where I worked on building a cross-layer networking stack for energy-efficient sensor systems and use of bio-inspired coordination algorithms to solve the communication coordination issues among unreliable devices.

In your area of research, what recent advance/emerging subfield will yield important advances in the years ahead?

The three key players in IoT systems are sensors/actuators, computation and communication. The continuous advancement of these components has made many IoT applications (such as smart farming) possible in recent years. However, some other overarching issues still need to be resolved for the full adaptation of IoT in many industries—such as standardization for interoperability and seamless integration, governance, user experience, data security, trust and privacy. I believe the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) IoT standardization, post‐quantum asymmetric cryptography for IoT, and distributed ledger systems for transparency, accountability and governance will advance the adaptation of IoT systems.

From a sustainability point of view, self-powered sensor technologies with ultra/tiny machine learning at the edge advance many energy-efficient IoT applications. One direction I am particularly interested in is exploring how we can leverage IoT to support the circular economy so that we can achieve better resource management by recycling and reusing the products.

Will you tell us a little about the ACM-W UK Chapter?

The chapter was started in November 2014, exactly five years ago. We currently have 140 members from all over the UK. The chapter runs the annual Inspire conference in collaboration with several UK-based universities. The conference provides a platform where young researchers (mostly PhDs and postdocs) get the opportunity to come and share their research with their peers in a friendly environment and get feedback from senior researchers and build a close-knit community. The chapter also organizes a mentorship program for its members, and so far this is very effective—our mentees find it quite helpful. As an additional initiative this year, we also collaborated with ACM and some leading tech companies to support student travel grants to attend ACM conferences.

We are grateful to Imperial College London (2015), University of Hertfordshire (2017), De Montfort University (2018), and University of Durham, and University of Kent (2019) for supporting and hosting the Inspire conferences. Of course, we also thank ACM-W and Microsoft for their continuous financial support, and our Chapter officers and volunteers, who have put in a tremendous effort over the last five years.

What advice would you offer a younger colleague just starting out in the computing field?

Computing is a rapidly moving field; therefore, picking the right research problem at the right time is essential. To make an impact in this field, find and understand a problem. Ask yourself: “Why is this problem challenging and hard to solve?” Then find the right people and experts who can provide insights into the issue and share their experiences before you start searching for a solution. In addition to this, I firmly believe in mentorship: find the right mentor who can help keep you motivated during the tough times―not only to help you grow professionally, but to connect socially as well.

Poonam Yadav is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Computer Science Department at the University of York, UK, and a visiting Research Fellow at University of Cambridge’s Computer Lab, UK. Her research interests include Internet of Things (IoT), computer networking, crowdsourcing in citizen science, and machine learning for sensor systems. She is Chair and founding member of the ACM-W UK Chapter.