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NaliniThe N2Women (Networking Networking Women) community announced its annual list of “10 amazing stars in networking and communications that you should know,” and Computer Science Professor Nalini Venkatasubramanian is on the 2020 list.

N2Women is a community of researchers in networking and communications focused on encouraging diversity and fostering connections among women. There are numerous sponsoring organizations and technical committees, including the Computing Research Association (CRA), IEEE Computer Society and ACM SIGMOBILE, among others.

“It’s a very distinguished group of researchers, both from academia and industry, who have made significant contributions to networking large-scale distributed systems, so it’s an honor to be part of that list,” says Venkatasubramanian, whose work on distributed systems and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology has covered everything from smart water infrastructures and firefighting systems to spaces that prioritize privacy by design, whether in an assisted-living, college campus or military setting.

“Democratizing IoT has been a mission for me,” she says. “The next generation of IoT and networking technologies should be accessible to one and all, so the question is, how do you design technology that is robust and usable in all of these different settings?”

System robustness is crucial to her work. “Providing accurate and timely information will help individuals make the right decisions, especially in times of crises, “ she says. “Technology must not fail when you need it most.”

Accessibility is just as important. “I think the bigger message is that networked sensing and computing technologies are becoming ubiquitous — everybody is using them, from a street vendor in India to large corporations, so maintaining accessibility and affordability is critical.”

While she acts as a mentor to younger researchers through her N²Women activities — and acknowledges that she has had many great mentors over the years — she stresses that some of her greatest mentors have been her students. “I work with diverse students who have taught me a lot,” she says. “In designing technology, you need to be able to understand what people need, and these students come in with different perspectives and viewpoints because of the challenges they’ve faced or their backgrounds.”

Designing technology for diverse populations requires a broad pool of developers from various social, economic, cultural and gender populations, so in that respect, the N²Women focus on supporting and encouraging diversity fits right in with Venkatasubramanian’s goal of “making technology that can work for everyone,” she says. “I’m glad to be part of the change.”

— Shani Murray