19 January 2011
Interview with Joerg Widmer, Senior Researcher, Institute IMDEA Networks
1. To begin this interview, we are curious about how you were called to the life of science. When and why did you decide to become a scientist?
I was very fortunate to be able to spend a year at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, California for an internship and to write my diploma thesis. ICSI affiliated with UC Berkeley and home to a number of brilliant scientists like Mark Handley and Sally Floyd. Working together with them showed me how much fun research can be and I decided that this is what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. After quite a few years in research I can safely say that this was the right decision.
2. What training and background do you have as a researcher? What institutions have you worked with up until now?
After the stay in the US, I started my PhD at the University of Mannheim, Germany, but I continued to collaborate closely with the researchers at ICSI. While my PhD thesis was concerned with transport protocols in wired networks, I also became interested in the wireless networking topics some of my colleagues were working on. Changing topics every once in a while is what keeps research interesting and after the PhD I decided to join EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland as a postdoc, to work on wireless ultra-wideband communication. I believe EPFL is one of the best universities in Europe for communications research and for two years I enjoyed the vibrant research environment there. I then joined Docomo Euro-Labs in Munich, an industry research lab that belongs to NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile operator. For five years I led their networking research group, experiencing research from an industry perspective and also learning a bit about the Japanese work environment and culture.
3. How did you get the opportunity to come and work in Madrid?
While I very much enjoyed working for an industry lab, at the same time it constrained the research topics I could work on and after a while I also missed the close contact with PhD students. I heard about open positions at IMDEA Networks and the opportunity to help build up a research lab sounded very exciting to me.
4. What interested you most about the IMDEA project? What made you want to become involved?
The main reason for joining was the ability to freely choose the research directions I believe are most interesting and promising. Having worked for academia and industry, I like both environments and IMDEA Networks allows me to be at the intersection between the two, doing fundamental research but at the same time keeping an eye on technology transfer to industry or a startup. I’m also very much looking forward to building up a group of PhD students and possibly giving lectures a t University Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) in the future, since I do enjoy teaching.
5. In what research lines will you be working? What specific results to you expect to see?
I intend to mainly work on wireless networking topics. While increasing capacity of wired networks is relatively straightforward simply by adding new lines, doing so in wireless networks is much harder. Wireless spectrum is limited, and the number of wireless devices as well as the capacity demand of each device keeps increasing rapidly. Meeting these demands requires significant improvements in wireless technologies and protocols, for example how to coordinate thousands of wireless devices in the same area and how to manage the interference between them.
6. Did you know Spain before joining IMDEA? What do you like best about Madrid?
Before coming here, I only spent a few summer vacations in Spain and did not know Spain very well. I love being outdoors and very much enjoy hiking in the mountains, rock climbing, etc. on the weekend as a balance for a busy work week. With the beautiful mountains around Madrid and the usually excellent weather, there is ample opportunity for such activities. Of course, the city itself also has quite a lot to offer and I only just started exploring Madrid culture and night life.
“I love being outdoors and very much enjoy hiking in the mountains, rock climbing,
etc. on the weekend as a balance for a busy work week.”