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Travel grants allow Ph.D. students to participate at IETF meeting in-person

  • Grant GrossIETF Blog Reporter

6 Jan 2023

Sergio Aguilar Romero and Martine Sophie Lenders, both Ph.D. students in technology fields, attended and participated in the IETF 115 meeting in London with assistance through travel grants from the Internet Research Task Force.

Aguilar Romero, a Ph.D. student in network engineering at the Technical University of Catalonia (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya) in Barcelona, says his first in-person IETF meeting was “amazing.”

Meanwhile, Lenders, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin), said meeting face-to-face at IETF is a big improvement over web conferencing.

Applicants for the travel grants submitted an application letter with a summary of their research, their resumes, and a letter of support from an academic advisor, with travel grants for the upcoming IETF 116 meeting in Yokohama accepted until 6 January 2023, and information about the next round of travel grants for IETF 117 San Francisco (22-28 July 2023) will be announced after IETF 116 concludes.

The IETF Blog asked both to reflect on their experiences at IETF 115 held 5-11 November 2022.

IETF Blog: Can you explain the work you are doing that is connected to the Internet Research Task Force?

Lenders: Currently, I am involved with privacy-enhancement in the Internet of Things, specifically encrypted name resolution via CoAP. I am involved with protocol design at the moment, namely DNS over CoAP within the CoRE working group and a CBOR-based DNS message format in the CBOR working group.

Aguilar Romero: I presented a new idea in an interim meeting in September, which became my first individual submission in October before IETF 115. This individual submission Internet-Draft is in the area of LP WAN convergence. The idea is to converge all LP WANs in a single fragmentation layer, reducing complexity and code maintenance.

IETF Blog: What were some of your main takeaways from participation in the IRTF, other sessions, and conversations during the IETF 115 meeting?

Lenders: The main takeaway is: It is always better to attend in person and actually meet people. Attending the sessions online and using Gather is a good substitute when there is no other way. However, actually talking in the hallway to people interested in the same topics as you are, and having side-discussions, felt much more fruitful than via Gather, email or chat.

Aguilar Romero: I delivered an individual submission in time to be presented at the IETF 115, and I was able to present in person, thanks to this grant, and get to know some of the people I have worked with for almost four years. The experience was amazing, with a lot of side meetings solving key issues and shared with lots of people.

Sergio Aguilar Romero attending 115 IETF London 001
Sergio Aguilar Romero participated at IETF 115 in London with support from an IRTF travel grant.

IETF Blog: Is there anything from the meeting you’ll be taking back to your ongoing work?

Lenders: Yes, especially in both of my topics, I had some fruitful discussions that sparked new ideas or issues to work on. For our new message format, for example, we quickly figured, that some more extensions were needed, just from the discussions in both CoRE and CBOR.

Aguilar Romero: The individual submission that I presented can actually provide a cornerstone for the LP WAN working rechartering, in terms of session management, and by defining a single convergent SCHC profile, it can be used over new technologies. So, yes, and it was not in the direction we thought before the meeting, as using this proposal over new technologies was beyond our scope.

IETF Blog: What do you see as your likely participation in the IRTF or IETF going forward?

Lenders: I will continue to participate in person in the IETF meetings in Europe, where I am based. If I can get the funds, I will also visit other meetings. In any case, I will follow the discussions and work online.

Aguilar Romero: Now, we are doing the final reviews of two Internet drafts (SCHC over Sigfox Profile, and SCHC Compound ACK Message). One is in the shepherd review phase and the other is in the IETF last call phase. My participation will continue in the interim meeting and in leading these two Internet drafts. Also, with the new individual submission, new opportunities open to continue the work over other technologies beyond the LP WAN technology’s scope.

IETF Blog: How did support such as the IRTF travel grants make a difference in your participation? What’s the process for getting a travel grant?

Lenders: I am not sure I would have been able to attend the IETF 115 meeting at all without the travel grant. While it is in Europe, London is very expensive to visit for me.

Aguilar Romero: I was able to be in-person at the meeting for the first time after 10 meetings being online. Being able to be in-person, and presenting my first individual submission, was actually an amazing experience. The Hackathon there was a great opportunity to discuss some subjects that I didn’t fully understand related to a problem presented in previous meetings. This was also discussed in a working group side meeting, and it was a very interesting meeting. The side meetings were amazing.

IETF Blog: Do you recommend that more technologists get involved in the IRTF and IETF? What do you gain by being involved?

Lenders: Definitely! Getting involved with IRTF or IETF means that you get access to the shared knowledge and experts in the field, with whom you can exchange and refine your ideas for future Internet technologies and improvements.

Aguilar Romero: Yes, definitely, if you like to work and participate in the creation of new protocols that make the Internet. It is actually very interesting to see how a protocol, with rough consensus and running code, are developed and becomes a standard. I have gained a very interesting opportunity to combine my Ph.D. research with contributions in the development, evaluation and implementation of new standards that will be used in the industry.


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