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Can you give us a little background about yourself? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
I was born in a small town in India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. After high school, I pursued a B.Tech. degree in electronics and communication engineering from West Bengal University of Technology, also in India. I went on to pursue an M.Sc. degree in communication engineering from the University of Manchester, U.K, after working for a multinational software firm for a year. I developed an acute interest in RF and microwave circuits during my Masters, thanks to the world class professors in the field who taught us. I started work for the fifth largest engineering consultancy in the world at that time, Atkins, but soon realized that my true interest lay in hardcore technical design work. This inspired me to pursue a PhD (Electrical & Electronics) within the Microwave and Communication Systems research group in the University of Manchester, followed by a Post-Doc for Rolls-Royce.
My research interests were on different aspects of transceiver front-end design and development, with primary focus on low noise applications. This ranged from on-wafer III – V low noise transistor process evaluation, MMIC low noise amplifier design and phased-array system noise analysis for radio-astronomy projects (the Square Kilometer Array), to antenna designs for harsh RF environments in industrial or aerospace applications (Rolls-Royce). Subsequently, I moved to the industry, and worked on developing hardware for 3G and LTE mobile phones and tablets (Nvidia, UK), and for low-power wireless data communication in the ISMband (Qorvo).
Out of many fields of expertise to choose from, why Engineering?
My favorite subjects while growing up were math and physics. During our annual school science exhibition, I would always present a project or quiz the visitors with interesting math puzzles. Also, I was interested in astronomy as a hobby; I would be spotting constellations in the night sky and browsing through satellite images of galaxies. Slowly I developed a fascination towards satellites and how they work. So, when it was time to choose a career, I naturally opted for Electronics and Communication Engineering as it looked like a culmination of all my interests.
What are you currently working on?
Presently, I am working on RF front end development for ISM band ultra-low power wireless data communication chips, for use in consumer electronics, smart home, security, wireless sensing and control, and IoT applications. I joined Greenpeak Technologies when it was a small but fast-growing company in the Netherlands, but then we were acquired by Qorvo, an industry leader in the RF and microwave domain. It is an exciting time to work in the low power wireless domain, where every other day you hear of some new application of IoT.
Do you have any note-worthy engineering experiences?
One of the most interesting research work I did was for a Rolls Royce project. The work involved characterizing the propagation environment within a Trent 900 engine. It was an incredible experience to walk inside a Rolls-Royce lab with engines all around, and conduct measurements inside an engine. Also, due to time constraints relating to the availability of the engine, I had to put a lot of thought and effort to ensure that all measurements were done correct the first time. Overall, it was a unique experience.
What is the most challenging problem having you fixed in your field?
My Ph.D. research was partially focused on developing a multi-band antenna design solution for Rolls-Royce. This was to be used in a very harsh (RF) environment. In addition, the design itself was quite challenging as almost every constraint affected the antenna parameters adversely. I started the work with no prior experience in antenna design, and delivered a working prototype in a few months. It was tested and worked in the actual environment. This gave me immense satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Taking an idea from concept to an actual working product is always satisfying.
Being a Teaching Assistant, what is the best-experience that you encountered?
I was a teaching assistant during my Ph.D. years. I really enjoyed working with young people and encouraged them to try out new approaches to solve a given problem. I was happy that I could impart my knowledge in such a way that students came back with fresh ideas. This was a very memorable experience for me.
What are your primary tasks as Senior RF Engineer at Qorvo?
My primary task in Qorvo is RF front end development of our ultra-low power communication chips. This mainly includes the development of the transmit and receive chains for new Zigbee or BLE based products, component characterization to develop specifications, system-level testing of the final products, troubleshooting customer issues and involvement in interference mitigation approaches.
As a Female Electrical Engineer, how do you make yourself stand out working in a male dominated industry like Engineering?
I have always let my work speak for itself. I believe if the quality of work is good, it will stand out anyway, irrespective of the gender.
What professional organization have you participated in as an Engineer and how did it help you?
I am a member of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, Communications Society and Antennas and Propagation Society, and a reviewer of IEEE conferences and symposiums. This has helped me get access to up-to-date research work in my own field, present my own work to a larger technical audience, connect to engineers and generally be aware of technological developments in other areas.
I also participate actively in other relevant professional activities. I have been the Program Chair of the first student-led conference for young researchers organized by the University of Manchester, a lead volunteer in the European Microwave Week 2011 and the University of Manchester School of EEE nominee for IETYoung Woman Engineer of the Year Award 2011, to name a few. I was also one of the 15 UK engineers to answer questions inspired by the 2014 BBC Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which inspire the youth to pursue engineering.
What are your favorite hobbies during your free time?
I very much enjoy traveling and never miss a chance to travel. Reading, cycling and yoga are my other interests.
What direction do you see yourself heading in the next few years?
With things getting more and more exciting in my field, I see myself continuing to work on new engineering problems. I would also like to get involved in collaborative work between the industry and academia; that would be a good culmination of my experiences in both domains.
Is there anything you’d like to say to young people to encourage them to pursue Engineering?
If you are interested in Science or Maths or Computers or are fascinated with how things you use in everyday life work, you should most definitely consider a career in engineering. It is a profession in which you are solving problems to make the quality of peoples’ lives better, applying knowledge to break through technological barriers and make a direct contribution to society. Emerging frontiers in engineering like millimeter-wave communications, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, quantum computing, biomedical applications, internet of everything, alternate sources of energy, to name only a few, continue to keep engineering exciting, and it can give you immense satisfaction to be able to contribute in these challenging fields.