IIITH Researcher Wins Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship 2019

Divija Shwetha Gadiraju from the Signal Processing and Communication Research Centre was among 10 other winners chosen from a select list of Indian universities who received a 10 lakh financial award.

On July 4th, 24-year-old PhD student from the Signal Processing and Communication Research Centre (SPCRC), Divija Shwetha Gadiraju received the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship award 2019 at a ceremony in New Delhi which was presided over by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan. She was one out of 10 winners of a challenge that was thrown open to the ECE undergraduate and postgraduate student community from a select list of Indian universities such as the IITs, IISc and IIITH. The fellowship entails a financial award of Rs 10 lakh plus the assignment of a Qualcomm researcher(s) as a mentor to facilitate close interaction with Qualcomm Research.

The Challenge and Its Process

The fellowship challenge invited proposals from teams focused on technology domains within Electrical Engineering and Computer Science such as Advances in Communication Techniques and Theory, Autonomous Driving, Machine Learning, Secure System Design, Multimedia Computing, Advanced Semiconductor Electronics, Processor Architecture and Implementation, and Semiconductor Test, Quality and Yield Learning. Each team with a maximum of 2 students necessitated the presence of one or more faculty advisors. The application process required not just the proposal and the student’s resume, but also a recommendation letter from the team faculty member listing out why they thought the proposal was innovative, important and likely to succeed. In Divija’s case, her mentor has been her PhD advisor Dr. Lalitha Vadlamani, faculty at the Signal Processing and Communication Research Centre. As a finalist, Divija  was invited to make a 20-minute presentation to the judges outlining the proposal, the differentiating factors in the idea itself and the execution plan of the team.

Innovative Proposal

Shedding light on the winning proposal, Divija explains her work titled Codes for Distributed Computing and Sharding as the application of coding theory in the areas of distributed computing and blockchain. Coding techniques are employed in distributed computing to speed up matrix multiplication which is a key computational task in many data analytics and machine learning algorithms. “So, speeding up matrix multiplication would by extension speed up a wide variety of algorithms,” says Divija. Similarly, in the case of decentralized digital currencies like bitcoin, coding techniques can be used to increase its throughput. “By scaling blockchain, bitcoin will be able to handle more number of transactions comparable to those handled by Visa and Paypal,” says Divija.

Corroborating it, Dr. Vadlamani says, “Codes have been employed both in distributed computing and sharding frameworks based on models of these systems, which are ideal and somewhat away from practice. In this proposal, the main idea is to consider models, which are closer to practice and devise solutions for the same.”

Curious Mind

Stating that she has always been curious about how things work, Divija owes her passion for all things Science to her parents and the unique learning experiences she had in school. “I had some amazing teachers at Delhi Public School who persuaded me to travel down the scientific path. Also, my parents used to explain scientific phenomena in daily activities because of which I developed a lot of interest in Science, especially Physics.” The specific interest in wireless communication took off from the final year of her BTech. In fact it inspired her to pursue a Masters and helped her pick her dissertation topic. ”I had the chance to do some original research in my Masters and that inspired me to pursue a PhD,” says Divija. Now, as an independent researcher, she says, “I feel my PhD project can open up new lines of inquiry for this field and want to use it as the foundation for a fruitful research career.” Dr. Vadlamani who has been her advisor since August 2018, says,”Divija has done relevant coursework in the first semester. We had spent more than 6 months understanding the state of the art with respect to the problems discussed in the proposal and I think we are good to go.”

Life outside research

Reading articles and books on personal development scores high on Divija’s list. When she is not dabbling in painting, she can be found either singing or listening to music. What next? I am happy to be an academic, but I want to keep other options open,” signs off Divija.



Sarita Chebbi is a minimalist runner, practising yogi and baker of all things whole-wheat, and sugar-free. Currently re-learning her ABC’s…the one that goes: A for algorithm, B for Bayesian, C for convolutional (neural network)….

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