Marconi Society Seeking 2017 Nominations

Marconi Society is Seeking Nominations for Its Two Awards Programs, the 2017 Marconi Prize and the 2016 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Awards

• Mountain View, CA •

The $100,000 Marconi Prize is awarded annually to a living scientist or scientists who have made a significant contribution in the field of information and communications science. It is considered the most prestigious award specific to the field. Marconi Fellows include an elite list of individuals whose work set the stage for modern telecommunications and the Internet, from Nobel Prize-winning physicists Arthur Schawlow and Sir Charles Kao to Internet pioneers Robert Kahn, Paul Baran, Vint Cerf and Leonard Kleinrock, World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, science visionary Arthur C. Clarke, and Ethernet inventor Robert M. Metcalfe. More recent winners have included Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, DSL modem inventor John Cioffi, encryption pioneers Martin Hellman, Whitfield Diffie and Ron Rivest, turbo-code inventor Claude Berrou, fiber optic pioneers Robert Tkach, David Payne and Andrew Chraplyvy and wireless luminaries Andrew Viterbi, Irwin Jacobs and Henry Samueli, among others.

Nominations for the Marconi Prize may be submitted at any time, but the deadline for consideration for the 2017 Prize (to be presented in the fall of 2017) is July 31, 2016. The Paul Baran Young Scholar Awards, which include a cash prize of $4000 plus $1000 expenses to attend the Society’s annual awards gala, recognize outstanding young scientists and engineers anywhere in the world who have demonstrated exceptional capabilities and potential. A nomination must be submitted on behalf of the candidate by a faculty or technical advisor. The deadline is July 15, 2016. To be eligible for this year’s awards, nominees must have been born in 1988 or later.

The Marconi Society was founded in 1974 by Gioia Marconi Braga to honor her father, radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi. The Marconi Prize has been awarded since 1975, to a total of 44 scientists.

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For more information, contact Hatti Hamlin

Pesyna Named 2015 Young Scholar

Ken Pesyna, University of Texas Graduate Student, to Receive the 2015 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

• Mountain View, California •

Fine-tuning GPS to centimeter-accuracy for wide array of applications

Ken Pesyna, a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas Electrical Engineering School, has been selected to receive the 2015 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 28-year-old researcher will receive the award at the Royal Society in London on October 20, 2015.

“Ken’s work on centimeter-accurate and power efficient GPS may have turned conventional wisdom about this field on its head,” says Bob Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and chairman of the Young Scholar selection committee. “His ability not only to develop a new theory but to prove it in practice was truly impressive. Ken is on track to make breakthrough contributions in our field.”

Pesyna’s work makes use of a special part of the GPS signal that, if used correctly, can provide centimeter or even sub-centimeter positioning accuracy. Such accuracy is required for augmented and virtual reality (i.e., overlaying animated objects into the real-world, or a purely virtual world such as what is done with the Oculus Rift). These are technologies that require that head movements be tracked minutely, allowing the screen to compensate for that movement in a way that is convincing to users.

Another application of centimeter-accurate GPS is autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Such accuracy will be needed to keep the car positioned in the lane and to determine its proximity to other cars, even in bad weather, when the Radar and vision systems might suffer. Centimeter-accurate GPS will also enable cars to cross intersections safely without needing to stop.

Still another use is mapping. Surveyors today use this centimeter-accurate GPS technology to survey ground markers, but the current technology has so far involved expensive hardware.  Pesyna’s breakthrough has been to integrate the technology into an ordinary smartphone, eliminating that expense.

To accomplish this, Pesyna had to identify and overcome the obstacles in using current smartphone technology. Among other things, he showed that contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest challenge to achieving centimeter-accurate GPS positions with a smartphone isn’t so much power consumption or the limitations of the GPS chip, but the relatively poor grade of antennas used in the devices. Pesyna’s research identified a number of ways to overcome this antenna problem, and to address another problem of centimeter-accurate GPS:

“Centimeter-accurate GPS comes with a ‘gotcha,’” says Pesyna. “The time it takes for the phone to find your initial position (Time To First Fix/TTFF) is significantly longer than for standard meter-accurate GPS—as much as five minutes.  No one wants to wait that long.”

Pesyna discovered that just by moving the phone slightly back and forth, he could reduce the time by half. And by combining measurements from the GPS receiver with others from the smartphone’s camera to provide the phone with visual reference points that it could use to approximate its motion, he could reduce TTFF to about a minute—a length of time some people might find acceptable.”

He also has found ways to make the centimeter-accurate GPS algorithm more energy efficient and less of a drain on the smartphone battery.

“Ken has laid the technical foundation for a revolution in our field of positioning, navigation, and timing, a revolution that will culminate in the mainstreaming of satellite-based centimeter-accurate positioning on mobile devices such as smartphones and virtual reality headsets,” says Todd Humphreys, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at The University of Texas..

“Low-cost centimeter-accurate positioning is viewed by many as the ‘next big thing’ in our field, making possible democratized survey-grade 3-D mapping, untethered virtual and augmented reality, and reliable, low-cost lane keeping for autonomous vehicles.”

In fact, Pesyna’s work already has attracted the attention of Samsung, a leading smartphone company that also has a big stake in virtual reality technology.

“I see very good potential of the centimeter-accurate GPS in many emerging applications and services, including virtual reality, self-driving cars, new user interfaces to interact with the computers and smart devices, and more,” says Dr. Charlie Zhang, VP of Research at Samsung Research America in Dallas. “Ken’s groundbreaking work will prove to be essential toward realizing these potentials, and its society benefit is clear and long lasting.”

“We see very good potential of the centimeter-accurate GPS in many emerging applications and services, including virtual reality, self-driving cars, new user interfaces to interact with the computers and smart devices, and more,” says Charlie Jianzhong Zhang, Ph.D., the Head of the Standards and Research Lab at Samsung Research America in Dallas. “Ken’s groundbreaking work will prove to be essential toward realizing these potentials and its society benefit is clear and long lasting.”

Pesyna grew up in the Indianapolis area, one of five children.  His father is a mechanical engineer who instilled in all of his children a love of hands-on activities. He spent many weekends with his dad tinkering with the family cars and helping with home improvement projects. When he was admitted to Purdue University it was natural for him to enroll in the engineering program.

“Universities like Purdue are pretty rare,” he says. “They have a first year engineering program that is independent of disciplines—so you get the chance to ‘learn how to learn’ working in groups while figuring out what you want to do.  That was when I discovered wanted to be an electrical engineer.”

During his last year at Purdue, he interned at a nonprofit research institution in Texas working on wireless, and he was hooked. After looking into graduate school, he applied to UT, attracted by the school’s renowned Wireless Networking and Communications Group.

After a year of exploring various research avenues, he began working with Professor Humphreys on estimation and navigation. Eventually, Professor Robert Heath, a leading wireless technology expert and Cullen Trust Endowed Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, became his co-advisor. Heath says Pesyna is not only an extraordinary researcher, but has the drive to be a successful entrepreneur.

“This past year, Ken along with a few of his colleagues started a company to commercialize the technology he developed during his graduate studies. It’s developing low-cost centimeter-accurate GPS positioning technology that is targeted toward both business and consumer platforms—and they already have a couple of companies interested in the first product. That’s impressive.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event.  Two other Young Scholars were selected this year: Kartik Venkat from Stanford and Joseph Lukens, from Purdue University.

One of the Society’s first Young Scholars also was from UT; Felix Gutierrez, Jr., now a VP of Hardware Engineering at Parlevel Services, Inc. in San Antonio.

This year’s Young Scholars will receive their awards at the same event where Professor Peter Kirstein, considered the “father of the European Internet,” will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize. The Marconi Society was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio.

The organization promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize.

Stanford Student Kartik Venkat to Receive the 2015 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Mountain View, CA • Kartik Venkat, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University Electrical Engineering School, has been selected to receive the 2015 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 26-year-old Indian-born researcher will receive the award at the Royal Society in London on October 20, 2015.

“Kartik’s exceptional scientific achievements at this early stage of his professional career stand out,” says Bob Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and chairman of the Young Scholar selection committee. “We were impressed with his innovative work in developing the theory and practice of modern information processing, as well as his outstanding academic achievements. We look for individuals who are on track to make breakthrough contributions in our field—and Kartik meets that standard.”

Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) Professor Shlomo Shamai, who collaborated with Venkat on several papers, says, “Kartik has contributed to the very basic relations and connections between information and estimation. His recent work settles a challenging problem by proving that mutual information on a Gaussian channel is not adequate to characterize the full lookahead estimation performance, unlike the classical results which apply to zero lookahead (filtering) and to infinite lookahead (smoothing.) Kartik has led this scientific effort, which benefited greatly from his original thinking and broad knowledge.”

“Kartik’s work has helped us develop tools to boost the performance of algorithms in machine learning and AI,” says Stanford Professor Tsachy Weissman, Venkat’s PhD advisor and mentor.

“He’s helping us find smarter ways to process a huge quantity of data—which is applicable to a wide array of disciplines.”

Venkat’s work extends far beyond communications problems. For example, it applies to problems pertaining to inference on large scale genomic data. “What is most impressive and unmatched within scholars of equivalent seniority is the breadth of the subjects he contributes to and the depth of his contributions,” Shamai says. “His work carries interesting potential impact on an array of technologies and applications.”

Venkat is a native of Delhi, India and grew up in a family with a strong focus on education. His father was a scientist in India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, and his mother worked in banking. His father encouraged him to become a scientist, and he joined the Electrical Engineering program at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 2006. Inspired by a paper by Claude Shannon, often called the “father of information theory,” he sought out papers and books by other leading scientists in the field. Finding that many of them were affiliated with Stanford, he applied to their PhD program and was accepted in 2010.

“What made it so exciting was that at Stanford, I had a chance to interact with truly amazing people, who had made revolutionary contributions to the information sciences,” says Venkat.

Kartik’s principal advisor was Prof. Tsachy Weissman, whose research and style immediately attracted his interest. “Tsachy has been everything I could ever hope for in a research advisor,’’ says Venkat. “He really brings out the best in students.’’

Another of his mentors was the late Stanford Professor Thomas Cover, an information theorist and author of the book “Elements of Information Theory,” which became the most widely used textbook in the world as an introduction to the topic. Venkat also received advice and inspiration from Professor Abbas El Gamal, currently Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and considered one of the leading scientists in network information theory. “I asked him for career advice,” Venkat recalls. “He told me to either do something fundamentally new, or take an existing technology or theory and find a transformative new angle. In other words, don’t do incremental work—shoot for the big advances. Of course, a lot of Marconi Fellows have done that.”

Venkat is on track to receive his PhD this December. After that, he wants to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that apply his work to real world problems, taking “deep ideas in research and using them to transform the way an industry is viewed,” he says. “I don’t know if that will be in academia—or in a company of my own.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. Two other Young Scholars were selected this year: Ken Pesyna from the University of Texas, and Joseph Lukens, from Purdue University.

Three other Stanford EE students have won the Marconi Society Young Scholar Award since it was launched in 2008. For more information about the Young Scholars program, go to www.marconisociety.org.

Venkat will receive his award at the same event where Professor Peter Kirstein, considered the “father of the European Internet,” will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize. Other Marconi Fellows with ties to Stanford include Arogyaswami Paulraj, Vint Cerf, Whit Diffie, Martin Hellman, John Cioffi, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The Marconi Society was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio. The organization promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize.

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About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio. The organization promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize.

Media Contact:
Hatti Hamlin
925.872.4328

Purdue Student Joseph Lukens to Receive the 2015 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Recognized for groundbreaking work on “temporal cloaking”

Mountain View, CA • Joseph Lukens, Ph.D., a researcher at Purdue University Electrical Engineering School, has been selected to receive the 2015 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 26-year-old American researcher will receive the award at the Royal Society in London on October 20, 2015.

“Joseph’s accomplishments in two quite distinct experimental research topics both connected with secure optical communications are quite impressive,” says Bob Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and researcher at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs who chairs the selection committee. “We look for individuals who are on track to make breakthrough contributions in our field—and he meets that standard.”

“In the area of temporal cloaking, Lukens has shown how to open up and then reclose temporal gaps in a continuous, single-frequency laser field, such that any events that take place within the temporal gaps are rendered undetectable or cloaked,” says Prof. Andrew Weiner, Lukens’ primary advisor at Purdue. “Although spatial cloaking has received much attention, there was only one experiment on temporal cloaking prior to his Nature paper, which made significant advances over the prior work and used only telecom components, suggesting potential compatibility with lightwave communications. In a second paper he introduced completely new concepts, demonstrating both a multi-wavelength cloak and the use of cloaking to avoid corruption of existing data.”

Lukens also has used pulse shaping technology to manipulate time correlation functions of entangled photon pairs (biphotons), seeking to bring modern photonic signal processing technologies to bear on problems relevant to quantum communications. “He has a number of firsts in this area of research,” says Prof. Weiner.

Lukens dreamed of being a musician while growing up in Evansville, Indiana, but eventually decided to apply to engineering schools, and attended the engineering school at the University of Alabama. He was still undecided on a career in engineering a year before he was accepted into Purdue’s graduate electrical engineering program in optics.

“The deeper I got into it, however, the more I enjoyed it,” he says. “I realized it was a better choice than bass guitar,” he jokes. He also credits Prof. Weiner with providing him with exceptional opportunities. “He has helped me develop as a researcher,” Lukens says. “When I began, it never even crossed my mind that I would work on these projects, but Prof. Weiner got the funding and he essentially let me run with it. These turned out to be very impactful areas of research.”

Lukens’ work is drawing high praise from other researchers.“The overall accomplishments of Lukens’ PhD dissertation are off-scale in quantity and quality and demonstrate exceedingly strong experimental and theoretical skills,” says Professor Stephen Harris, a Stanford professor whose research group has tackled related issues. “During his PhD Lukens has been first author on two PRL’s, an Optics Letter, and a Letter to Nature. Specifically, this ingenious 2013 Nature paper demonstrates an analog to the Talbot effect that allows the complete cloaking of a temporal signal. In his most recent work Lukens and colleagues demonstrate a new technique for controlling the quantum mechanical correlation function of down-converted biphotons. This novel technique is based on a property now termed as nonlocal dispersion compensation combined with the use of a variable frequency pumping laser. All of this is exceptional.”

After graduation, Lukens, a married father of two daughters, plans to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on research into quantum key distribution. “A single academic research group doesn’t have the same resources as a national lab,” he says. “This project has the potential to create the commercial version, but the jury is still out.”

“The Marconi Society Young Scholar Award is an exceptional honor,” he says. “I’m encouraged and inspired that people so eminent feel I have the potential to succeed. It will challenge me to live up to their expectations.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. Two other Young Scholars were selected this year: Ken Pesyna from the University of Texas, and Kartik Venkat, from Stanford University. For more information about the Young Scholars program, go to www.marconisociety.org.

Lukens will receive his award at the same event where Professor Peter Kirstein, considered the “father of the European Internet,” will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize.

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About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio. The organization promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize.

Media Contact:
Hatti Hamlin
925.872.4328