The newest Q&A with a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) alumnus features Madhavi W. Chandra, who received her ECE PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1998. She also earned her master’s from JHU in 1993.
Chandra currently lives in Cary, North Carolina, and works for Entrinsik, Inc., where she serves as the Director of Product Management for Informer 5 – a Business Intelligence and Data Analytics Platform. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the ECE Department at North Carolina State University. Her career highlights include 13 US patents in network communications, as well as coauthoring a book titled “Mobile IP Technology and Applications,” which was published in 2005 by Cisco Press.
During the conversation, Chandra spoke about what her ECE experience at Hopkins was like, the best thing she has learned as an engineer, and some extracurricular activities she has pursued during the pandemic.
ECE: What was your ECE experience at JHU like? What did you enjoy about it?
Madhavi W. Chandra: My experience in the ECE Department at JHU was extremely pivotal. While pursuing my graduate degrees, I learned many technical skills and broadened my academic education. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and also learned a lot about myself along the way. I developed a profound respect for the capabilities, caliber, and intelligence of the professors and my graduate student peers. It was intimidating at first, and I wondered if I could prevail. I knew that I would have to work harder than I had ever done so in my life. I learned that I could do just that and that I had what it takes to become a PhD graduate from the ECE Department at Johns Hopkins University. It’s an honor and accomplishment that I hold dear to my heart.
ECE: What was your research focus while at JHU?
MWC: My research focused on decentralized mobile ad hoc networks – networks in which there are no central entities or controlling nodes. In these types of networks, determining the data modulation scheme, error control coding, and optimal transmission ranges and power control for each node to use are key network decisions. The best choice for these different design components is not straightforward since their effects on network performance are interdependent and have direct impact on the network throughput and latency within the network. My research focused on jointly optimizing such design parameters from the data link layer and network layer in a decentralized system.
ECE: Were there any faculty members who stood out as impactful mentors on your development?
MWC: During the time that I was a graduate student, the ECE Department at Hopkins felt like a star-studded cast. I am sure that has persisted in the department. My advisor, Dr. Brian Hughes, was simply an outstanding mentor and educator, who guided and believed in me. He is now at the North Carolina State University. Dr. Brint Cooper is one of the most humble, kindest, and accomplished persons that I encountered at JHU. Dr. Prince and Dr. Goutsias were guiding forces in the Image Analysis and Communications lab. These professors were part of my Graduate Board Oral Exams and PhD thesis defense panel. I am indebted to all of these professors for their steadfast mentorship.
ECE: I see you that you are an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University. What has that experience been like?
MWC: I’ve been an Adjunct Professor in the ECE Department at the North Carolina State University since 2013. I enjoy teaching very much, especially finding effective ways to convey more involved topics. It is extremely satisfying to see students grasping concepts during my lectures. The icing on the cake is when I receive an email from a student expressing how much they are enjoying the lectures and finding interest in the material to pursue for further study.
ECE: You’re also with Entrinsik, a software company. What is your current role, and what are you currently working on?
MWC: I also currently work at Entrinsik as the Director of Product Management for Informer 5 – a Business Intelligence and Data Analytics Platform. Informer 5 allows teams across an organization to easily cleanse, prepare, interact, and explore their data to create dashboards/reports and share content in order to make the best possible business decisions based on trusted information. I have the privilege of working closely with our CTO to oversee the overall product and direction within the Engineering Department. In this role, I collaborate across different Departments – Engineering, Client Services, Marketing, Partner Sales, and Direct Sales. I also interact directly with clients. It is gratifying to hear when they say how much money or valuable time they have saved because of insights that they were able to extract using Informer! I really enjoy the multi-facet nature of my job, and the people that I work with. It makes working not feel like work.
ECE: What is the best thing you have learned as an engineer?
MWC: I personally feel that a strong asset for an engineer is analytical problem solving skills. As engineers, we are trained to critically think and come up with solutions within constraints. These traits can be exercised in all aspects of life, from the workplace to home. Another defining skill that I learned is the need for fault tolerance and backup ‘circuitry’. Let’s face it, failures happen. They are quite inevitable. However, it is the process of mitigating such failures by considering boundary conditions and edge cases and having redundant ‘circuitry’ in place. I have found these skills to be valuable across different dimensions of my life, whether if I was designing a home agent redundancy protocol for Mobile IP or dealing with my teenage sons!
ECE: What are some extracurricular activities that you have been doing during the pandemic?
MWC: The pandemic has been a surreal time! In the midst of adversity, there have been silver linings. I feel that we, as a society, were reminded about the important and simple things in life. I’ve had the opportunity to have valuable family time with my precious boys and husband, especially in the beginning. We watched many movies and played actual board games! I always enjoyed walking, and it took on a new meaning during the pandemic as it was the chance to go outside and get some fresh air. I also started reading more and rediscovered the feeling of getting lost in a good book.
As my boys were getting older, I had been thinking of getting involved in volunteer service and was hoping I would feel a ‘calling’ one day. Well, it came to me and I become involved in KIRAN – an organization aimed to help, guide, and instill hope in the lives of South Asian domestic violence victims across North Carolina. I feel passionate about this cause as no person should endure domestic violence. I hope that I can be impactful and make a difference.