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Listen to Constructive Comments, Ignore the Destructive Ones

In this short blog, Dr. Behrooz Makki, the outstanding nominee of the 2020 IEEE ComSoc Best YP will share his early research story as a graduate student.  We hope our readers will find it inspiring and relatable. Eventually, what matters the most is honesty, aspirations to do better, hard work, perseverance, understanding criticisms, and positivity.

Let’s hear from Dr. Makki!

The beginning: a dot

After my M.Sc program in Biomedical Engineering in 2008, I started my Ph.D. study in the Wireless Communications group, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, with no wireless communications background. My thesis was about the performance analysis of wireless networks in the presence of limited channel state information (CSI) feedback. For nine months, I was reading and reading with no progress. While my Ph.D. supervisor knew the concept well, CSI was not in his main field of research, and he was not aware of the recent literature.

Seeking to find a way

Finally, I found a paper published in IEEE Transactions on Communications (TCOM) introducing hybrid automatic repeat request (HARQ) is a kind of limited CSI feedback. The most important point about the article was its clear, insightful, and complete explanation of the problem, which was the key for someone like me not hearing the word HARQ before. Happily, I started to work on some HARQ-based problem formulation, which was an extension of the TCOM paper, and drafted a journal paper. Someday, when our article was almost ready, a wireless expert asked me what I am working on, and he got supersized hearing HARQ. He told me that HARQ is a matured (old) and well-covered topic, and “if you can publish a single journal paper about it, I will change my name!” 

The joy of trying out

When I explained the situation to my supervisor, he told me that we know what we have done is correct and well-formulated, and as we have checked, it has not been presented before. He said, “let’s accept the challenge and submit the paper. Then, in the worst case, we will learn something from the reviewers“. To speak the truth, I was neither a HARQ expert nor have the slightest idea of how important a journal paper is. Hence, I followed my supervisor’s advice, and we submitted the article.

The art of learning

The paper got rejected, especially because one reviewer had various severe criticisms on the analysis and assumptions. Luckily, the editor had also read the article carefully and gave us useful hints on addressing the comments. We revised and resubmitted the paper based on his advice, and it got accepted in the second round. In this way, not only did I learned a lot during the revision process, but the paper also helped me improve my self-confidence in my research field. I continued the work and defended my Ph.D. with 18 journal papers, which was the best record in the department and even Sweden.

Also, up to now, I have published more than 30 journal papers on CSI and HARQ, while the wireless expert who gave me early research feedback has not changed his name yet!!

**Statements and opinions given in this blog are the expressions of the contributor(s). Responsibility for the content of published articles rests upon the contributor(s), not on the IEEE Communication Society or the IEEE Communications Society Young Professionals.

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