INSPIRES Graduate Student Profile: Sonia Naderi

By Stefania Irene Marthakis

Sonia Naderi is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the University of Maine, and she is using her knowledge and performing research within multiple fields of study (e.g., forestry). As a graduate research assistant, advised by Ali Abedi, she works in the WiSe-NET Lab, building wireless sensors for forest ecosystem monitoring as part of the NSF-funded INSPIRES project.

Naderi is also chair of IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Maine Section and President of the Iranian Graduate Student Association as well as ECE Senator of the Graduate Student Government, where she represents fellow ECE graduate students’ interests and concerns.

Sonia Naderi, a third-year Ph.D. Candidate in the University of Maine’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who is also engaged on the INSPIRES project.

With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from her home country of Iran, she began studying the research papers of Abedi, whose work inspired her—along with her interest in sensors and wireless communications, as well as a strong background in mathematics—to join the University of Maine’s electrical engineering program and the WiSe-NET Lab.

While she is very interested in reading and writing papers, the lab gives her the opportunity to work with cutting-edge sensors and data collection. Since 2018, Naderi has worked on several projects with Abedi at the WiSe-NET Lab, including several projects involving wireless energy transfer and sensors. Through Abedi, Naderi was introduced to INSPIRES.

“Since it’s an interdisciplinary project,” states Naderi. “I had this opportunity to work with the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, and University of Vermont with students and faculties from different majors.”

To build a low-cost and low-power sensor suite for INSPIRES, Naderi leads a team of two undergraduate students in the ECE department, Victoria Nicholas and Thayer Whitney.

“These low-cost sensors enable large scale deployment, providing much needed data points in places that no data have been collected in the past,” explains Abedi.

Naderi is currently working on soil moisture sensors for forest ecosystem monitoring as well as wireless sensing of the forest ecosystem, using artificial intelligence and machine learning developed by fellow researcher, Kenneth Bundy.

Although COVID has presented challenges, Naderi and project team members are working from home with their equipment, periodically meeting via Zoom. Recently, Naderi and team members deployed a couple of soil moisture sensors and data acquisition system at a site in Old Town, ME.

Teamwork is an important aspect of Naderi’s work. “What I’m most excited about is this is the first time that I’m working with a large group of students and faculty from different majors, from different schools,” said Naderi. “And also we meet every month and I learn a lot about their work, especially forestry.”