Armenian engineer works to bring underwater Wi-Fi to Life

Hovannes Khatchig Kulhandjian’s story is typically modern Armenian. It is one of constant motion, moving from one place to another, learning to adapt, and, in that uncertainty, learning to strive, Asbarez writes.

Kulhandjian was born in Gyumri, Armenia. In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake in 1988, his family moved to neighboring Georgia. After a few years there, the Georgian civil war broke out and forced them out once more, this time to his father’s birthplace, Egypt.

Today, Kulhandjian is a Ph.D. candidate at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he is helping push the envelope in communications technology in a project that has garnered worldwide attention.

Hovannes Kulhandjian, several fellow researchers, and research leader and U.B. professor Dr. Tommaso Melodia are working on a project that promises to bring the Internet underwater.

Near the University at Buffalo, the small research team has run successful tests on Lake Eerie. The team has set up an underwater Wi-Fi network that operates using sensors that Kulhandjian and his team dropped into the lake. The sensors signal buoys on the surface, which in turn communicate with satellites, connecting to the Internet.

The underwater sensors are special, though, in that they use sound waves rather than radio waves, which work poorly underwater.

Kulhandjian studied electrical engineering at the American University in Cairo. After graduating with high honors at the AUC, he was accepted to the State University of New York at Buffalo to pursue his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, specializing in signal processing and wireless networking. Kulhandjian is working on several other projects involving underwater wireless acoustic sensor networks.

“We Armenians around the world value higher education and strive by all means to support those students that cannot afford it. I’d like to mention that I am grateful to a number of Armenian scholarship funds. Without their support I would not have been able to pursue my professional ambitions,” Kulhandjian says.

Kulhandjian wants to pay that help forward when his turn comes. “Upon graduation from University at Buffalo I’d also like to take part in supporting potential students of Armenian descent who are in need of financial assistance,” he says.

Kulhandjian is also grateful to his parents who encouraged him to pursue education and who helped him preserve his Armenian identity.

“Despite living most of my life outside my home country, thanks to my parents, who always used Armenian at home, we have preserved our precious mother tongue and our Armenian culture,” Kulhandjian says, adding, “Being involved in Armenian activities overseas has helped us to preserve our roots and heritage.”

The Internet Underwater Project is moving forward with promise. Melodia and his students will present their research at the annual International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems in Taiwan, taking place Nov. 11 to 13.

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