Pitt in Brief

Issue Date: 
August 24, 2010

Kosovo U. Opens Telecom Lab, Part Of 3-Year Pitt-Led Effort

The University of Pristina in Kosovo recently unveiled a state-of-the-art telecommunications laboratory that marks a significant step in a three-year, $450,000 project led by Pitt to help the small Balkan nation’s main university recover from years of unrest.

In 2008, Pitt’s School of Information Sciences (SIS) and Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies (REES) won a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to link Kosovar students to the digitized world through a graduate-level telecommunications program and help obtain the technology that goes with it. SIS researchers and electrical and computer engineering professors at Pristina designed the curriculum for the two-year graduate program while regional experts in REES helped SIS navigate the complex cultural, linguistic, and political channels in Kosovo, a breakaway Yugoslav nation whose 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia remains disputed.

The two-year graduate program was launched in 2009 with an inaugural class of 19 students; the new laboratory will now provide those students with the hands-on computer networking experience they need. Students in the lab can experiment within a range of telecom scenarios, from basic connections between two PCs to building and maintaining advanced networks. The lab comprises five workbenches containing three PCs, one laptop, and a networking equipment rack that links the computers; an additional network rack connects all the computers in the classroom. This connectivity acclimates the aspiring networkers to the collaborative world of telecom. The lab design is based on SIS’ Telecommunications Networking Laboratory on the Pittsburgh campus.

Pristina’s telecommunications program is intended to provide Kosovo with the technology and professionals it needs for economic independence, said Martin Weiss, a professor and associate dean for academic affairs in SIS. Since Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian majority first pushed for independence from Serbia in the 1990s, the nation and the University of Pristina have lacked the time and funds to invest in the technology essential to a modern economy.

“The graduates of this program will be more skilled due to having the training and expertise provided in the new lab and can help to close the technology gap that exists in this amazing nation,” Weiss said. “These graduates will provide an enormous service to both the people and businesses who call Kosovo home.”

—Morgan Kelly

Pitt Researchers to Explore Key Component of U.S. 'Smart Grid' Under Westinghouse Grant

Researchers in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering have received a $200,000 grant as part of the Westinghouse Electric Company’s Revolutionary Research and Technology Program to begin work on an essential component of the “smart grid”—a project widely regarded as an important step toward improving the efficiency, control, and management of the United States’ electric power infrastructure.

A team led by Gregory Reed, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Swanson School’s Power and Energy Initiative, will design an interface to more efficiently integrate nuclear power and other low-emissions energy resources into the nation’s larger power grid. The smart grid refers to a rapidly developing digital network that can monitor power generation and delivery and respond to customer demand in real time. A key feature of the smart grid is the integration and automated flow of electricity from a variety of energy resources, including nuclear, wind, solar, and fossil-fuel power, Reed said.

The interface to be developed at Pitt will let consumers directly access information from an energy supplier and allow them to control and manage how much electricity is flowing in and out of a facility. The intent is to improve overall energy management, which would save energy and reduce costs. As it applies to nuclear power, the new interface would more efficiently balance nuclear power with renewable energy resources and could eventually influence future nuclear reactor designs by managing electrical output more efficiently.

The project builds on the Pitt Power and Energy Initiative’s work in the areas of energy production, delivery, and end-use aspects, which include various collaborations with private energy industry organizations and government agencies.

—Morgan Kelly