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Honors and Awards

Nivedita Arora Wins 2024 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

Arora advances sustainable computing by building devices resembling sticky notes that harvest energy

Northwestern Engineering’s Nivedita Arora has received the 2024 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Doctoral Dissertation Award. The award, presented annually to one doctoral candidate worldwide, recognizes exceptional research, writing, and impact on computer science, engineering, and society at large. 

Nivedita Arora

Arora, who studies at the intersection of novel materials, low-power embedded systems, human-computer interaction, and design, was recognized for her foundational work designing sustainability-first computing systems and exploring their applications.

“With rising climate change and e-waste, it is imperative to build computing technologies with a sustainability-first approach,” Arora said. “My dissertation represents this core thinking. I am super honored that ACM has recognized my research on sustainable computational materials. I am extremely grateful to my advisers, collaborators, friends, and family for their support.”

Arora joined Northwestern Engineering in September 2023 as the Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Professor of Design and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. She is also an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Computer Science.

“Sticky note” sustainability

As a PhD student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Arora posed the question: “What if a sticky note could enhance the surfaces it is attached to and provide additional interactive functions?”

To find answers, Arora dove into trans-disciplinary research. She fabricated novel material devices and circuits to develop sustainable Internet of Things-like stickers that support wireless communication, perform functional computing tasks, and respond to human speech, movement, and touch interactions. These interactive sticky notes also operate without a battery by harvesting power from the environment.  

In her award-winning dissertation, “Sustainable Interactive Wireless Stickers: From Materials to Devices to Applications,” Arora developed four projects with iteratively increased capabilities, focusing on system design parameters prioritizing environmental sustainability, battery-free power, minimal form factor, and low cost:

At the McCormick School of Engineering, ongoing projects in Arora’s VAK Sustainable Computing Lab include developing a biodegradable sensor platform for remote sustainable sensing, designing low/no power smart robotic textiles for rehabilitation, and exploring carbon-aware quantum computing.  

Arora earned a PhD in computer science and a master’s degree in human-computer interaction, both from Georgia Tech, where she was advised by Gregory Abowd and Thad Starner. Prior to joining Northwestern, Arora held a postdoctoral researcher position in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, advised by adjunct associate professor Josiah Hester.

Arora will receive the Doctoral Dissertation Award at the 2024 ACM Awards Ceremony and Reception at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on June 22.