Zahra Ebrahimi

Who are You and what do You do? With whom are you collaborating (Partner)?

My name is Zahra Ebrahimi (personal webpage) and I got my master’s degree in “Computer Architecture” from Sharif University of Technology (Iran) in 2016. In 2018 I joined the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed) as a PhD research associate at TU Dresden. Since then, I have worked on various DFG-, ESF-, and BMBF-granted projects on the topics of ‘Approximate Computing’ and ‘Reconfigurable Computing’. My main research is focused on developing cross-layer techniques (from circuit- to architecture- to application-layer) to improve the energy- and performance-efficiency of embedded and reconfigurable systems – deployed in edge to cloud continuum – for a variety of application domains.

I collaborate with Huawei (Munich Research Center) in my Software Campus project, entitled “X-DNet: Energy-Efficient Distributed and In-Network Computing via Approximation of Applications and Accelerators”.

Since when are You a participant at Software Campus?

I applied for the Software Campus in spring 2021 and my project officially started in May 2022.

What do You expect from Software Campus?

The program is a unique and invaluable opportunity from various aspects: first, it allows academic researchers to pursue and implement their own ideas, in a close collaboration with industry partners, which allows to further improve the quality of solutions and ending products, especially from an industry perspective. Moreover, besides the technical experience, we also foster our leadership skills as young project managers. Finally, we also develop various soft skills by participating in many seminars and workshops. Especially, since these workshops are at the industrial partners’ premises, we also get an insight into these companies.

What is your IT Project about – core topic – and how could it be used on a long run?

Developing energy-efficient devices and real-time computing approaches are of the main challenges in the era of 5G/6G, especially considering the ever-increasing complexity of computational algorithms in stream processing and AI-based applications.  Therefore, the goal of our project is to improve the performance- and energy-efficiency from both architecture- and application-level in a HW/SW Co-design approach: 1) design reconfigurable accelerators to be deployed in various spots, from edge-to-cloud continuum, and 2) reduce the complexity of computations via ‘approximate computing’ techniques, in both distributed and in-network computing approaches.

Few proliferating examples that can benefit from our solutions are: wearable 24/7 health monitoring IoT gadgets, drones used for tracking/surveillance/entertainment, keyword spotting on voice assistants (Alexa, Siri, etc.), audio/image processing for e.g., anomaly detection in autonomous and distributed environments (from autonomous driving to the control phase of industrial production).

Do you have some funny/exciting/surprising Memories linked with computer science? What exactly inspires and fascinates you about computer science?

Whenever I talk about my research area with unfamiliar people and they ask, “what is approximate computing”, I answer in simple words which sound funny: “I design circuits like a multiplier, which gives you 3.99, for 2×2! Albeit it is not completely accurate, it answers you faster, and consumes less power. And for many application domains, the approximate results are acceptable enough!”

Which app/technical invention is more than essential to You?

Internet (e-mail, messengers, virtual meeting apps), renewable energies.

Did a specific (public) figure of computer science or management impress You in a certain matter?

I learned different positive skills from different academic and industry people through 10+ years of my research: motivating and supporting leadership from my professors, unstoppable endeavor from group leaders, industry-creativeness, and various management skills from industry collaborators.

In Your opinion, Is there a “specific“ character trait which a high level Manager should be fond of in order to be successful?

Time management, knowledge, and creativity to explore acceptable alternative plans in case of various problems, flexibility for efficient communication, especially in a multicultural environment.

Which was Your most challenging experience along your career in computer science that You had to face so far?

My education was mainly focused on hardware aspects of computer engineering. For my doctoral studies, I decided to delve into designing energy-efficient systems with a HW/SW Co-design approach. Therefore, understanding software (and network aspects for my SW Campus project), and then exploring optimization knobs in such multi-level networking systems was a bit far from my previous experience and knowledge. Broadening my knowledge and creating fruitful ideas, which should be feasible from the industry perspective, required months of research and self-brainstorming.

Imagine the following scenario: There is an internet breakdown for a whole month. What would you do?

Hiking and connecting with nature/animals, learning piano, sports with friends, traveling, family-time, brainstorming with my professor/colleagues for the next works, writing thesis!

Next to your job and Software Campus, what makes your heart beat faster?

Innovative ideas related to e.g., sustainability, renewable energy, etc., that help people spend their resources (time, earth) more efficiently.

A healthy life for all people around the world. Broadcasting kindness, help, and justice. Creating any opportunity to generate laughter and happiness.


Source language of this interview: English