Sergio Barrachina's stay at Rice University

(Entry by Sergio Barrachina, read a more detailed version with a description of the technical work done here)

Since the very beginning of my Ph.D. adventure, I always bore in mind the wish of experiencing a research stay abroad. I had several reasons to think that way: e.g., working with an external top research group, leaving the comfort zone for few months, improving my English communication skills, visiting new places, meeting interesting people, enjoying new cultures, among others. That aspiration came true as my 2nd Ph.D. year finished, once Rice University (Houston, TX, U.S.) accepted me as a visiting researcher. After a lot of tedious bureaucracy, including a visit to the U.S. embassy in Madrid (and El Prado as well), I got my VISA for entering the country.

During my stay - from November 2018 to February 2019 - I have been working with the Networks research group (RNG), lead by Prof. Edward Knightly. The people on RNG is amazing: really focused on research, with hard-working ethics, honest and so welcoming with visitors. Apart from the seminars and other intra-group activities (e.g., running experiments with the drones of the ASTRO project), I have also participated in the weekly Wireless Research Department meetings, where interesting edge state-of-the-art topics like THz wireless communication, 5G (and 6G!) novelties, or even beamforming for audio signals were discussed.

As for the main contribution of the stay, I have been working on the design and development of a custom spectrum analyzer built with WARP programmable wireless platforms. The key and novel feature of the system is the ability to sniff the full IEEE 802.11ac/ax 5 GHz band in a real-time manner. Preliminary experiments on the field have been also conducted. The dataset gathered from these experiments is expected to be published as a valuable asset for the research community and, especially, for the advancement of my thesis in the analysis of multi-channel access techniques.

I had also spent some time discovering Houston and other places in the heart of Texas, such as Austin, the state capital, San Antonio, or Fredericksburg. At a glance (please, excuse the naive stereotypes), Texan people are really friendly and proud of their home state. "Everything is bigger in Texas" they use to say. And, in fact, this statement tends to be true. For instance, the Texas Capitol in Austin is known to be larger than the United State's Capitol in Washington. Beyond anecdotal facts, Texas has a well-established tradition of integrating people from around the globe (Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan... the list never ends), which made things even easier for this Spaniard.

To sum up, a really nice experience with some homesick moments that are worth to face. If you are a Ph.D. student considering to stay abroad some time, my advice, while silly and elementary at the same time is: just do it.

At the beautiful Duncan Hall building in Rice University campus (Houston, Texas - Feb. 2019)

More pictures here