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Meet the Editor-in-Chief

nikita profileKonstantina (Nantia) Nikita is a Professor at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece. She is the director of the Mobile Radiocommunications Lab and the founder and director of the Biomedical Simulations and Imaging Lab, NTUA. Since 2015, she has been an Irene McCulloch Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine at the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

Trained as both a physician and engineer, Nikita harnesses the power of (bio-)electromagnetics, sensors, and materials, along with multiscale, multilevel modeling and explainable artificial intelligence towards the diagnosis, study, and treatment of a variety of diseases including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, as well as neurological, mental, and cognitive disorders.

Nikita is an IEEE, EAMBES, and AIMBE Fellow and has received numerous awards for her research and academic achievements. In 2019 she was appointed as the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Open Journal of Antennas and Propagation. In an interesting discussion with her, we learn more about her background, career path, and her vision for OJAP.

Describe your early career path. What is your background and research interests?

collage v2I decided to study Electrical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, in part because the degree involved a very broad range of subjects. This breadth, including a strong emphasis on math and physics, is something I still benefit from to this day. I then received a Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from NTUA, and an M.D. degree from the Medical School, University of Athens. The unique career path of physician-engineer allowed me to combine my passion for solving mechanisms underlying disease, with treating patients in a clinical setting. My early research leveraged microwave and antenna technology towards improving hyperthermia systems and treatment efficacy, focusing on the intra-operative treatment of pancreatic cancer. I was extremely fortunate to work on both theoretical and experimental aspects ranging from waveguide hyperthermia applicator design, electromagnetic and thermal modeling, optimization techniques and phased array principles, to system development and application of hyperthermia in the operating theatre.

If you are successful in asking the right questions to tackle important problems, the greatest reward lies in making an important contribution to solving them.

mobihealthI was and still am impressed by how heavily the medical profession relies on state-of-the-art technology. Equipped with engineering skills, I felt I could truly learn medicine by focusing on the underlying mechanisms while constantly keeping in mind: here is something that I can do to improve, to design, to make a difference. In fact, the translation of advances in physics and information technology into new approaches for studying or diagnosing medical conditions is something that intrigues me. I believe that the flow of information from the lab to the clinic but also from the clinic back to the lab -the continuous feedback and communication among the diverse fields- are essential for success.

My research interests include computational bioelectromagnetics, medical telemetry, biomedical data processing and analysis, and quantitative physiology. My team harnesses the power of (bio-)electromagnetics, sensors, and materials to yield next-generation wearables and implants characterized by extreme miniaturization and enhanced performance. By integrating data acquired from health monitoring systems with multiscale, multilevel modeling and intelligent decision-making techniques, we are able to facilitate the diagnosis, study and treatment of an array of highly prevalent diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, as well as neurological, mental and cognitive disorders.

I really love working closely with creative, knowledgeable, and imaginative young people.

What’s been your greatest challenge and your greatest reward in your professional career?

EMP100YEARSI think the greatest challenge in my research career has been to ask thought-provoking questions at the intersection of science, medicine, and engineering, in order to push the field forward. It is rather straightforward to continue working incrementally on the same field, without deviating from your original path. When you are encountered with new interesting questions, you are drawn to uncharted territories searching for answers. If you are successful in asking the right questions to tackle important problems, the greatest reward lies in making an important contribution to solving them. Maintaining a multidisciplinary research approach, aligned with research objectives across different axes in order to craft robust solutions for diverse healthcare challenges, has been deeply rewarding.

Another thing I really love is working closely with creative, knowledgeable, and imaginative young people. When it comes to my students, my intention is not to stay limited to guiding their academic progress; I try to meaningfully engage with them and support them in advancing their career by sharing experience and expertise. Seeing my students succeed is far more rewarding than a major publication or significant grant.

All these rapid advances in wireless real-time health monitoring technology coupled with the latest developments in the field of AI-based data analytics […] are bound to transform healthcare delivery.

Research in the field of bioelectromagnetics has been ongoing for a long time, what breakthroughs have been made recently?

Our field has seen groundbreaking advances in antennas, electromagnetics, circuits, and materials that breed innovation in healthcare delivery and wellness management. Novel designs, new biocompatible materials and fabrication techniques, along with additive manufacturing technologies such as inkjet printing, have prompted development of flexible, robust antennas and electronics as essential components of wireless wearables and implants for sensing, stimulation, and imaging. The emergence of novel imaging modalities, harnessing microwave technology, is expected to help us materialize wireless portable imaging systems that facilitate diagnosis of a multitude of conditions. Wireless power transfer, enabling charging wirelessly and conveniently, has made implants more appealing to several applications. For example, wireless and battery-less brain implants for the continuous monitoring of neural activity could become a game changer in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and addictions. All these rapid advances in wireless real-time health monitoring technology coupled with the latest developments in the field of data analytics, which are fuelled by the incredible advancements in Artificial Intelligence, are bound to transform healthcare delivery, allowing for a personalized, preventive, more efficient and cost-effective approach.

What inspired you to become Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Open Journal of Antennas and Propagation? Why do we need a journal like IEEE OJAP today?

labThe idea of launching the first gold open access journal of the IEEE, that would serve the entire AP field, was enticing for several reasons. I was very confident that the journal addresses a real need within the scientific community, given that all major publishers are transitioning from the subscription-based business model to open access (OA) in an attempt to distribute research in the interest of strong science and the public good, and move towards the elimination of paywalls in science. At the same time, by embracing the rigorous peer-review procedure applied across all IEEE journals and opening up research of the highest quality with permissive licenses like CC BY, researchers are empowered to build on existing research rapidly. Founded on such a model, IEEE OJAP bridged a very obvious gap in the IEEE AP-S journal portfolio towards accelerating innovation. Backed by the firm and invaluable support of the AP-S and IEEE throughout the new journal’s set-up also enhanced the appeal of the exciting opportunity to launch OJAP.

In the wake of COVID-19, many publishers have committed to open access publication of scientific articles relating to the disease, facilitating rapid and open peer review and fast-tracking the publishing of related research. This is a convincing demonstration of the value of open access to scientific research as one of the most substantial positive disruptions caused by COVID-19.

So far, the response of the AP community to OJAP’s launch has been phenomenal. It has been amazing to witness the enthusiasm with which researchers seize all the benefits of publishing with OJAP, from rigorous peer-review and rapid publication, to increased visibility and enhanced dissemination.

OJAP is unique in that it combines the breadth of AP-S’s scope with the rigor of peer-review, rapid publication, and barrier-free access. It upholds stringent standards and demonstrates how open access can go hand in hand with high quality…

How does IEEE OJAP stand apart from other journals?

OJAP is unique in that it combines the breadth of AP-S’s scope with the rigor of peer-review, rapid publication, and barrier-free access. It upholds stringent standards and demonstrates how open access can go hand in hand with high quality, by encompassing a strategically optimized editorial model that is empowered by IEEE’s publication prestige and expertise. It is our primary goal to ensure that all authors benefit from rapid, thorough and consolidated feedback and enjoy maximum exposure of their published research that is disseminated and explained to the widest possible audience.

Through our editorial policy for Special sections, we offer authors, who have material ready to be submitted but are also interested in publishing their work in a topical special section, a unique opportunity. Their paper is published immediately upon acceptance -independent of the Special Section’s submission deadline- while also being included in an expanding impactful article collection, addressing a targeted audience.

We aim to publish content of the highest quality and support researchers throughout the entire lifecycle of an article, from submission to publication. We aspire to establish OJAP as a venue for sharing the most impactful research and enabling innovation to occur more rapidly.

In this direction, OJAP provides repositories for data and code sharing and urges authors to provide access to code and data associated with their article, in order to make their results widely reproducible, thus increasing the impact of their research.

Our top priority is to establish a discrete identity for OJAP within the AP-S portfolio publications, by capitalizing on two major benefits provided to our authors, i.e., rapid and thorough feedback as a result of our rigorous peer-review process, and immediate publication upon acceptance.

What is your vision for OJAP and in the future? What are you hoping to achieve with the journal and how do you see it developing?

As OJAP matures, we become more and more excited about sharing our vision with our audience and expanding our community of authors and readers. We aim to sustain and reinforce the journal’s development in terms of quality and impact and provide a venue that will inspire further interactions and collaboration through its content and channels. Our top priority is to establish a discrete identity for OJAP within the AP-S portfolio publications, by capitalizing on two major benefits provided to our authors, i.e., rapid and thorough feedback as a result of our rigorous peer-review process, and immediate publication upon acceptance (immediate pagination for inclusion in the current volume). In addition, we emphasize on attracting research and survey papers on emerging topics, that are not frequently featured in other AP journals. All members of OJAP’s editorial team share a true passion for ground-breaking advances, innovative techniques, and cutting-edge technologies within the AP field and work enthusiastically towards providing a true home for AP research.

As OJAP continues to grow, I look forward to integrating Special Sections on cutting-edge topics and instilling new editorial policies, such as mandating that all data on which research conclusions are built are made publicly available (please see our Information for Authors for more information). Moreover, I am excited to see our cluster of review articles expand and serve as reference material for our community. Our goal is to publish a limited number of high-quality review articles, bringing together established investigators from different labs, institutions, countries, continents to spark a stimulating discussion and shed light on timely topics within the AP field.