Researcher of the Term: Chitra Karanam



Name & Nickname (if applicable): Chitra R. Karanam

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Previous Degrees & Where (Undergrad/Masters - if applicable): Bachelor and Master of Technology from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), M.S. from UCSB

Degree sought from UCSB and Progress (e.g., 4th yr): Ph.D. Electrical and Computer Engineering (3rd year)

Professional Memberships: IEEE Student member

Hobbies / Activities / Interests: Reading, hiking, squash


The Department: The friendly faculty and students, who are always ready to help and chat. Also, the location of the department, and a view of the ocean from my desk in lab!

UCSB: It’s a beautiful campus, with a diverse community and a variety of events and talks that interest many students.

Santa Barbara: The wonderful weather all year long, the scenic location of the city.


One of the things we want to focus on in our research section on the ECE website's graduate studies pages is the theme of collaboration between students, faculty, industry, government and other departments and universities.

We also want potential graduate students to get an understanding of what life is like as a researcher and working in research group/lab.


Research program (e.g.,Controls, CSP, EP): Communications and Signal Processing

Main Area of Research: Signal Processing and RF Sensing

Research Interests (list of keywords): RF Sensing and Imaging, Array Signal Processing, Robotics

Advisor / Lab or Group Name: Professor Yasamin Mostofi

Important Conferences you attend – did you present a poster or a talk?: ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN) - Talk

Title of Most important publication to date and link to your CV or pub list: "3D Through-Wall Imaging with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Using WiFi," 16th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN), April 2017

Link to publication:
Link to personal webpage:

What types of Financial Assistance have you received? (GSR, TA, Fellowships): Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistantship (TA)


A) Research Description – geared towards prospective grad students and industry/potential collaborators:

Our lab works on problems at the intersection of communication and robotics. My research is in the field of RF Sensing and Imaging with robots.
RF signals are present everywhere these days, and they carry a lot of information about our surroundings. Signals like WiFi can even pass through walls and reflect off people and other objects present in any area. Broadly, I work on using RF signals like WiFi to see through walls and image the area located on the other side of the wall. I use unmanned ground vehicles and octo-copters to collect wireless measurements outside an unknown area. Then, through an extensive modeling of the interaction of such signals with the area of interest, I reconstruct an image of the unknown area. In the past, there has been a lot of work in our lab on reconstructing a 2D image of the unknown area, and I am currently working on 3D image reconstructions, through walls, using drones with WiFi.

B) What do you find rewarding about your research?:

The most rewarding part of my research is when our proposed methodology and design works well in practice in our experiments.

C) Collaboration: UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere. How do you collaborate with e.g., your advisor, and other faculty, groups, research areas, departments, students (in and outside your group)? What about outside of UCSB e.g., industry, other groups, faculty, and students?:

Some or the other form of collaboration is essential for research. In our group, we frequently discuss and collaborate on various ideas and projects, and I feel this helps immensely whenever anyone feels stuck in a problem. We regularly meet with our advisor to discuss research. Other faculty in the department are also always easily approachable, whenever we want to discuss any topic or problem. 

D) Where will your research take you next? What are your personal Career Goals / Future / Industry, Gov’t or Academia?:

In the future, I would like to be working in the industry, on RF sensing related applications.


A) How and why did you get into your area of research?:

At an internship during my undergrad, I worked in the field of array signal processing, and I found the related algorithms and ideas very interesting. Later in grad school, when I got a chance to work on RF sensing and robotics, I realized that this would be a great opportunity to explore more avenues along the lines of my undergrad internship.

B) Why you selected the ECE Department and UCSB in regards to your research area?:

The ECE department at UCSB has a great reputation. I first applied for the Masters program, and after arriving here, I liked the atmosphere at the department, and the research in my advisor Professor Yasamin Mostofi’s group. I then decided to pursue my Ph.D. here as well.

C) Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor:

When working on a research problem, it helps a lot to be able to discuss it with others in the research group. I am glad to be working in a group where we constantly discuss and help each other with various aspects of research. I have also had a great experience working with my advisor. She is always supportive and meets with us regularly to discuss progress on research.


Information about your academic endeavors and experiences at UCSB.

A) Academically, what do you think are the strengths of the department's graduate program?:

The diverse research fields and associated faculty, the various research groups, and how everyone is easily approachable to discuss various ideas or problems.

B) Where applicable, share your experience about the screening exam, qualifying exam, defense exam, and working on your thesis / dissertation:

The screening exam can be a bit stressful. It is the first major exam during the Ph.D. program and tests the basic knowledge of various undergrad and initial graduate courses. Having a plan for a systematic preparation helped reduce some of the stress.
The qualification exam was less stressful, since it is a presentation on our research, and I had a stronger grasp on the material I had to present.

C) If you are or have been GSR or TA describe your experience. TA/Teaching Activities: If you are a TA what classes/labs do you teach or what involvement do you have in the class? Your thoughts on teaching:

I have mostly been a GSR. I was a TA for an undergrad course - Probability and Statistics. I had to conduct discussion sessions where I go over the topics and examples taught by the professor that week. It was a great learning experience for me, to read up about the topics and be ready to answer the various questions that the students might have.


A) Tell us about your quality of life as a graduate student. How do you balance school, work, social and family (if you have a family) life?:

Overall, I think the quality of life is good here at UCSB. Research takes up a lot of my time, and sometimes it gets challenging to balance work and personal life. During deadlines, it is difficult to set time apart for any other activities. But then, at other times, it’s not so hectic and I try to plan a few fun activities and relax.

B) Personal life in Santa Barbara: What is your social life like? Where do you live (Grad Student Housing, Family Housing, / Goleta / Downtown SB or ???? and why?). What do you think about living in Santa Barbara?:
I live at the grad student on-campus housing. I like living at there because of the proximity to the campus and the facilities that are available. It is pretty convenient since most graduate students stay at the grad housing.

C) Tell us about what did you do this summer or plan to do next summer? Travel, research at UCSB, Intern, etc.:
I will be staying at UCSB and working on research this summer.

D) Advice to prospective graduate students about all aspects of UCSB graduate student life (research, academics and personal):

There are a lot of opportunities to learn, through courses, interaction with faculty, interesting talks and seminars – try to make the best use of everything. « D E