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EXCEL student is breaking down digital signals with Ismail Jouny, Dana Professor and head of electrical and computer engineering

For some playing music is a hobby or even a profession, but for Serdar Benderli ’08 (Antalya, Turkey), it’s a science.

Benderli, who is pursuing a B.S. electrical and computer engineering and A.B. with a major in economics and business, is conducting research this summer using state-of-the art technology and learning about sound.

To put this complex work simply, Benderli is separating multiple sounds collected by a microphone.

“I have always been interested in signal processing, mainly because of music. I play the guitar with digital effects processors, which use Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to alter/manipulate the analog output of the guitar in order to create vast amounts of effects,” says Benderli. “Since I learned that these pedals use Digital Signal Processing, I’ve been interested in this field, especially in the areas of Sound/Acoustic Engineering.”

Benderli is working as an EXCEL scholar under the guidance of Ismail Jouny, Dana Professor and head of electrical and computer engineering. Through the EXCEL program, students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

The work involves gathering information from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or IEEE (pronounced as eye-triple-e) journals to research methods, algorithms, or ideas Jouny offers. Then Benderli implements the mathematics explained in the journals and converts them into codes for MatLab software.

“This part takes a hefty amount of time, as we have to test the code we have written to see if our results match with those stated on the journals,” reveals Benderli. “Prof. Jouny helps a lot here, as it gets very complicated at times even understanding some of these journals, let alone to program them on the computer.”

According to Benderli, after these codes have been written and tested with synthetic data created within the computer with the absence of real-life problems such as noise, distortion, etc., the pair then tests the code with the data collected using a 7-microphone array they built specifically for this research.

“This data has to be collected in specific ways, such as changing the angle of the speaker, changing the number of speakers, changing their angles, etc,” Benderli adds. “Then, depending on the signal, they need to be de-noised due to the excess noise in
the environment that may affect our results negatively.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to be able to use special DSP chips to manipulate the data in “real time,” which means the processing is done while the input is generated. In order to do this, Benderli and Jouny need to turn the MatLab code into a language that the DSP chip can understand, such as C++ code.

Jouny has been pleased with Benderli’s progress thus far and notes how the student is taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct specialized research.

“Serdar is using already established algorithms and he is bringing them to life by programming them to run in real time on a digital signal processing chip,” he explains. “He engages in state-of-the art research, and he gets exposed to the research experience and what it entails in tenacity, persistence, global awareness, and diligence.”

By engaging in research that combines music and engineering, Benderli feels he is getting a head start on his future. He plans to pursue a master’s or Ph.D. in this field and a career in DSP for music.

“My research deals with processing audio, and although it’s not exactly the same as what I want to do in the future, it’s very closely related,” he explains. “I’m getting more familiar with the mathematics involved, as well as different processes and algorithms to manipulate digital audio and the methods of carrying out such research. I believe it is putting me far ahead of where I would have been otherwise in what I want to do.”

Jouny praises his apprentice for his enthusiasm.

“Serdar is independent, highly motivated, and he is well prepared to do the work,” he adds. “He also appreciates the opportunity to do something fun, get valuable research experience, and learn about stuff beyond the classroom.”

Benderli is more than satisfied with Jouny as a mentor.

“Prof. Jouny is an excellent adviser in my opinion,” he states. “He makes sure I have
enough to do at all times, so that I’m constantly involved in the project. He also breaks the projects into pieces that I can work in parallel. If I get stuck on one part, I can continue on another. He always finds a solution to the problem, and that gives me confidence whenever I may feel like we’re stuck somewhere and there’s no way out.”

Benderli is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering honors society, Etta Kappa Nu Electrical Engineers’ honor society, and Omicron Delta Epsilon. He has previously performed research with William Jemison, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, on Optoelectronic Oscillators and composes music in his spare time.

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