NSF PR 01-35 - April 23, 2001
Tom Garritano, NSF
Elizabeth Thomson, MIT
Susan Fannoney, NSB
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NSF Award Recognizes Wireless Pioneer
Vahid Tarokh, a 34-year-old associate professor at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and
a recognized leader in the research field of wireless
communications, will receive the National Science
Foundation's (NSF) highest honor for young scientists
and engineers. The Alan T. Waterman Award, named after
NSF's first director, will be presented at a National
Science Board (NSB) dinner May 23.
Tarokh is the primary inventor of "space time coding,"
a new technique that significantly improves the speed
and reliability of wireless data transmission. These
innovations helped form international standards for
the latest cell phones, personal digital assistants
and other wireless devices. By some estimates, more
than one billion handsets might be employing the space-time
codes within five years.
One challenge that Tarokh faced was to design codes
that could dramatically enhance performance, yet still
work with existing wireless transmitters and receivers.
His solution was to build on highly complex mathematical
models to develop protocols that may be transmitted
via multiple antennas and received by sites that may
or may not use multiple antennas.
"Dr. Tarokh richly deserves the Waterman Award," said
Ruzena Bajcsy, NSF assistant director for computer
and information science and engineering. "As a computer
scientist and engineer myself, I would like to add
that his colleagues are especially proud on his behalf,
for the recognition this award brings to the importance
of basic research in information theory and technology."
As a measure of Tarokh's influence, most academic conferences
on wireless communications and information theory
now have multiple sessions on space-time codes, reflecting
that many researchers are now building on his ideas.
"Given all these activities," he said, "I forecast
a day when space-time codes will be used to push very
high rates of wireless data to laptops and other handheld
Tarokh joined MIT's department of electrical engineering
and computer science in September 2000 after rising
rapidly within AT&T Labs, where he was department
head for wireless communications and signal processing.
Tarokh's current research interests also include video
indexing and multimedia signal processing.
According to Tarokh, he became interested in wireless
at AT&T, where his supervisor -- A. Rob Calderbank
-- "is in the level of classical mathematicians including
the great Claude Shannon himself." Shannon was the
legendary AT&T and MIT researcher whose 1948 paper,
A Mathematical Theory of Communication, laid
the foundation for modern information technology.
The Alan T. Waterman Award honors an outstanding young
U.S. scientist or engineer who is at the forefront
of his or her research field. The honoree receives
a medal, as well as a $500,000 grant over three years
for scientific research or advanced study in any field
of science or engineering.
For a list of prior awardees, see: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/waterman/
See also: Fact
Sheet: Alan T. Waterman Award