Professor Cerpa's broad interests lie broadly in the computer networking and distributed systems areas. His recent focus has been systems research in wireless sensor networks, with emphasis in wireless radio channel measurement and modeling, link quality estimation, routing algorithms, topology control, and programming models. Professor Cerpa is also interested in Internet protocols and operating systems issues. In the past, he has been involved in active networking, mobile IP, and protocol design and verification research.
His research group develops and deploys sensor networks that address some of the grand challenges in science and engineering, mostly in the energy, health and instruments for scientific discovery domains. Some of his projects include developing instruments for solar radiation mapping, energy and occupancy monitoring in smart buildings and exercise physiology monitoring and modeling.
Picture yourself walking into a building. Your presence registers as a streak of color on a large monitor mounted on the wall. The air conditioner activates. The sun emerges from a cloud, the screen background color changes, and high-tech windows change their polarization to shade the building. As others walk in, their paths cross yours, creating an ever-changing portrait of the activity in the room – a participatory, high-tech work of art.
Or imagine a 3-D model of a river including data about flow rates, temperatures, pollutants and more. The information, taken at a broad range of latitudinal, longitudinal and depth points, comes from movable sensors mounted on cables that then transmit data by radio. Scientists can use it to create computer models predicting what would happen if, for example, the river received an influx of pollutants.
These ideas exemplify what Professor Alberto Cerpa of the UC Merced School of Engineering envisions accomplishing with embedded sensor networks.
“I like to build and deploy useful systems,” he says. “Keeping that as my goal, I’ve never had to search for a problem to solve in my research. There are infinite problems, and the problems find you. It’s also very rewarding – the problems are really worth solving.”
In Cerpa’s environmental sensing work with fellow engineering professor Tom Harmon, one of the challenges is energy conservation. When sensors are deployed in the field, they have to run at optimum efficiency to prolong the life of their power sources. Cerpa also works to coordinate the radio data transmissions, as simultaneous signals will be garbled and lost and each bit of information transmitted will make the sensors one step closer to their deaths.
Cerpa joined the founding faculty of UC Merced in 2005 following his Ph.D. from UCLA. He grew up speaking Spanish in his native Argentina.