Revolutionizing Computer Communication: A Conversation with Dr. J.J. Garcia–Luna–Aceves, 2023 Harry H. Goode Memorial Award Winner
IEEE Computer Society Team
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Dr. J.J. Garcia–Luna–Aceves has made a significant impact within the field of computer communication. This includes revolutionizing the way we communicate and exchange data by his contributions of groundbreaking research in algorithms, protocols, and architectures. With an impressive academic background and a prolific research career, Dr. Garcia–Luna–Aceves holds 70 U.S. patents, has published three books, and has contributed to more than 500 journal and conference papers. His leadership roles within academia and professional organizations highlight his ability to inspire collaboration and drive advancements in the field.
It is because of these achievements that he has received the honor of the 2023 IEEE Computer Society Harry H. Goode Memorial Award for “…significant and pioneering contributions to algorithms, protocols and architectures for routing in computer networks and the Internet.” Join us as we dive more into the mind of Dr. J.J. and learn more about his history below.
You’ve made countless contributions and advancements within the field of algorithms, protocols and architectures. What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work has been sharing the excitement with my students of coming up with new problems, finding new ways to view them, and inventing new solutions (algorithms, protocols, or architectures) to solve them. Just as rewarding as this has been seeing that many researchers have studied my work and used it to create their own new ideas and solutions.
Your work has focused extensively on routing algorithms and protocols. How have these technologies evolved over the course of your career, and what do you see as the biggest challenge facing routing research today?
By its very nature, routing is a very challenging problem, and I love working on routing because of it. Routing technology has continued to evolve over the years. This is easy to explain, because routing technology is intended to help deliver the right information to the right recipients at the right time as safe and efficient as possible– even as the sources or receivers of information and the networks it’s being transferred over change dynamically. This prior statement is changing continuously as demand, technology, and use cases of networks evolve. Routing in networks was different before the advent of packet switching, what routers and switches could do when packet switching was deployed, and what servers could run 10 or 20 years ago is very different from what can be done today.
One of the biggest challenges facing routing today is that many companies and funding agencies may view routing as a solved problem or not a very important one, simply because routing is taking place on the Internet, the IoT, and wireless networks; many international standards for routing have been adopted by vendors; and software define network (SDN) controllers can always be used. The fact is that such protocol standards as OSPF, OLSR, EIGRP, BGP, or the software running in SDN controllers, are based on very limited algorithms that assume the use of very limited machine intelligence and memory. They date back 40 to 50 years.
Future routing algorithms and protocols can take into account user intent, policies, network conditions and context, administrative constraints, multiple time-scales of communication, multiple optimality criteria, and security and privacy considerations, and do so in a distributed manner.
Your paper, “An Efficient Routing Protocol for Wireless Networks” (Mobile Networks and Applications Journal, 1996) has been cited more than 2100 times. Did you expect such a response and how did it feel to make such an impact? Were there many people who reached out to you?
I did not expect so many citations for that paper, but it’s very rewarding because I wrote it with my first Ph.D. student at UCSC, Shree Murthy. The impact of my work on routing has been less focused on a single paper and more on the aggregate body of results on the theory and practice of routing described in my papers. Most of the researchers influenced by my work have cited my papers, rather than reaching out directly to me; however, I have had the opportunity to be part of great research teams including SRI International, Nokia, PARC, and BBN, because of my published results on routing.
With such a successful career, you’ve overcome so many challenges! Is there any advice you wish you had received at the start of your career? If so, what would it be? Is there any advice you received that contributed to your success?
As a graduate student and a junior researcher, I tended to believe that approaches and results published in standards, important venues, or by well-known researchers must have been right. Over time, I realized that all research results have limitations, which stem from the researchers’ research foci and the technological context within which the results were derived. I now advise my students to always challenge conventional wisdom when they approach a research problem, and to not believe that a result is true or the best approach simply because it is an international standard, a “well-known” result, or a result published by a great research team. Just like no one would think that cars designed 50 years ago constitute the best designed cars, researchers in any technological field need to consider the fact that inventions produced many years ago were limited by the technological context when the inventions and designs were produced.
Frank Kuo, my thesis advisor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, let me know early on during my graduate studies that being smart is only a small part of being a successful researcher. Learning constantly what others have done or are doing, and working very hard to build from that shared knowledge are critical. Frank also made me understand how important it is for a researcher to write clearly and succinctly in order to convey research results to the intended readership. I have remembered these and many of other of his valuable lessons, and passed them on to my students the best I could over the years.
More About Prof. Dr. J.J. Garcia–Luna–Aceves
J.J. Garcia–Luna–Aceves received the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico in 1977; and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI in 1980 and 1983, respectively. He is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). His research focuses on algorithms, protocols, and architectures for computer communication.
Dr. Garcia–Luna–Aceves has been a Principal Scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a Principal of Protocol Design at Nokia, a Visiting Professor at Sun Laboratories, and a Center Director at SRI International (SRI). At UCSC, he led the Computer Communication Research Group (CCRG); and served as Department Chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, and as Campus Director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute.
Dr. Garcia–Luna–Aceves is a Life Fellow of the IEEE; was elected a Corresponding Member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 2013; and is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association (AAIA), and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He received the 2017 George E. Pake Golden Oak Award from PARC, the 2016 IEEE MILCOM Technical Achievement Award, the 2012 IEEE Communications Society Ad Hoc and Sensor Networks Technical Committee (AHSN TC) Technical Recognition Award, and the 2011 IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award.
He holds 70 U.S. patents, has published three books and more than 500 journal and conference papers, and has supervised more than 40 Ph.D. dissertations and more than 40 M.S. theses. He is the recipient of Best-Paper Awards at ACM PA-WASUN 2022, the International Conference on Ubiquitous Networking `22, IEEE LCN 2022, ACM ICN 2020, IEEE IPCCC 2018, the European Wireless Conference 2010, IEEE MILCOM 2008, IEEE MASS 2008, SPECTS 2007, IFIP Networking 2007, IEEE MASS 2005, and the 1998 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. He also received the SRI International Exceptional-Achievement Award in 1985 and 1989.
Dr. Garcia–Luna–Aceves has served as the Inaugural Chair of the ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia and as General Chair of numerous conferences, including IEEE MASS 2023, IEEE ICNC 2016, ACM MSWIM 2015, ACM MobiCom 2008, IEEE SECON 2005, ACM Multimedia ’93, and ACM SIGCOMM ’88. He has also served as Program Chair of ACM MobiHoc 2002, ACM MobiCom 2000, IEEE Multimedia ’92, ACM SIGCOMM ’87, and ACM SIGCOMM ’86.