Maximum Connectivity

Williams computer science professor Jeannie Albrecht
Computer science professor Jeannie Albrecht is using a National Science Foundation Career Award to develop computer programs that keep devices connected to mobile networks. Photo by Jon Roemer

Dropped calls have been a nuisance for about as long as cell phones have been in existence. But with mobile devices handling increasingly complex operations–from text messaging to video chats to emails with huge attachments–network connectivity is more important than ever.

It’s an issue that computer science professor Jeannie Albrecht is working to improve. In 2009 she received a $400,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, rarely given to small, liberal arts colleges like Williams, which she is using to develop computer programs that keep devices continuously connected to mobile networks–or at least trick them into believing that they are–to avoid service disruptions.

Albrecht is currently studying how power loss and malfunctioning equipment–two of the many factors that can disrupt a wireless computer network–affect the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s DieselNet, a system of city buses outfitted with computers that are connected by radios. Disruptions can occur when the buses power down at night or while they are moving, accessing different wireless points along their routes.

Thanks to the NSF grant, Williams students are at the forefront if Albrecht’s testing and software development. “It’s really quite generous for a small school,” Albrecht says. “It was a nice surprise.”

Read more about Albrecht in the September 2011 Williams Alumni Review. (For the text-only version, click here.)

You can also visit her web site.