2018 Finalist: Outstanding Leaders Of Tomorrow sponsored by Alberta Economic Development And Trade
Connecting the unconnected through science outreach
Having recently defended his PhD thesis, Dr. Tushar Sharma has already demonstrated research and community leadership at the university, provincial and international level. As President of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate student association, and Chairperson of the IEEE Young Professionals, Dr. Sharma developed numerous industry partnerships and successfully organized multi-disciplinary initiatives, workshops, and lectures in Alberta.
What problem did you see a need to solve and how did you solve this real- world problem?
My research deals with enhancing the efficiency of power amplifiers, which are the critical component in cellular infrastructure. Part of my research was in collaboration with NXP semiconductors, some of which is being used by industry for the deployment of amplifiers in base stations. When I was doing a lot of research on wireless communication, I got exposed to some real-world problems and I felt we are still not addressing the need of connecting the unconnected. That drove me to consider community development and building communities across Alberta.
In the past five years, I have worked in diverse areas to solve these real problems because we need smart solutions, which are sustainable, manageable, accessible, and reliable. I believe in building communities where people from different disciplines can come together to work in the direction of advancing technology for humanity.
What has been the impact?
One of the initiatives I started, the Astronomy Teacher Training Institute, is now developing an optical and radio astronomy project for the Siksika Nation. Following that, the Young Professionals in Space initiative, which was started in Alberta, is now being hosted in five different countries. The last project is called the Mamawapowin Society, which is a Cree word meaning the act of coming together. The objective is connecting the First Nations to the Internet and then using the data to enhance digital literacy. I believe it’s very important to work in the areas technology can address to benefit people.
Has being in Alberta helped you find success?
I was born in India, but Alberta has been the place where I learned everything, including the professional work culture and the interpersonal skills to talk to people. The University of Calgary has shaped my career; this journey has been phenomenal. One thing driving me in Alberta is the community spirit. I feel students who are working here in next generation technologies should be the part of community at large and should shoulder that responsibility.
Who have been your major supporters?
You cannot do anything alone. There has been a lot of support from the graduate student community and from my professor Fadhel Ghannouchi who has been helping me and supporting me in my research and in my other initiatives. I’m also thankful to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; they have given me phenomenal support setting up different groups in Alberta and setting up a special interest group on humanitarian technology. I have worked with a lot of faculty members at the Schulich School of Engineering who supported me in different areas. I have been fortunate and it has been wonderful the way the community came together.
What are the plans for the future?
A lot of these initiatives are volunteer driven. It is not just about nurturing volunteers or making managers, it is about nurturing leaders. When I today see different people making a difference all over Alberta, it is motivating for me. Now that I have completed my PhD, I am taking a step back to travel to different parts of the world, to explore and take some time before I make a final career choice.
How does it feel to be an ASTech Finalist?
ASTech is doing a phenomenal job and it always feels good if you get recognized for the work you have been doing. There was an ASTech video about my professor, Fadhel Ghannouchi, in 2009. I saw it on YouTube when I was in India and that’s how I came to know there is a professor doing this work in Calgary. I emailed him and told him I’m interested in this area. I believe ASTech has been bringing the right people together, which is very important for the economy as well as for development of young professionals in Alberta.