This document has been archived.

Skip To Content Skip To Left Navigation
NSF Logo Search GraphicGuide To Programs GraphicImage Library GraphicSite Map GraphicHelp GraphicPrivacy Policy Graphic
OLPA Header Graphic

NSF Press Release


NSF PR 01-35 - April 23, 2001

Media contacts:

 Tom Garritano, NSF

 (703) 292-8070


 Elizabeth Thomson, MIT

 (617) 258-5402

Program contact:

 Susan Fannoney, NSB

 (703) 292-8096

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

NSF Award Recognizes Wireless Pioneer

Vahid Tarokh
Vahid Tarokh

Photo credit: Donna Coveney, MIT

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 devices."

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:

See also: Fact Sheet: Alan T. Waterman Award


National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-8070
FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090

NSF Logo Graphic