IRVINE,CA–Syed Ali Jafar, a UC Irvine computer scientist who has changed the world’s understanding of the capacity of wireless networks, has won the 2015 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists in physical sciences & engineering. One of three winners chosen from among 300 candidates from highly ranked American universities and research institutions, Jafar will receive a $250,000 unrestricted cash prize and a medal in September at New York’s Museum of Natural History, according to a press release from the university.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be recognized on the national stage – from such an amazing cohort of extremely accomplished finalists – by such an illustrious jury of the nation’s most distinguished scientists,” Jafar said. “I am deeply indebted to my brilliant students and collaborators, who are my true miracle workers. It is my hope that this recognition will lead to broader exposure to and appreciation of both the beauty of information theory and the tremendous impact it has on our lives. It’s also a ‘shot in the arm’ for me to continue taking on challenging problems in our research group.”
A professor of electrical engineering & computer science, Jafar explores the fundamental performance limits of wireless communication networks. Determining network capacity – the maximum data rates that can be reliably supported – is the holy grail of network information theory, according to Jafar and others. And with the rapid growth of wireless communication networks, the quest has taken on unprecedented urgency. Jafar’s research group has gained worldwide recognition for its numerous seminal contributions to this topic, including its groundbreaking work on interference alignment in wireless networks. This research found that data rates are not limited by the number of devices sharing the radio frequency spectrum, a discovery that changed the thinking about how wireless networks should be designed.
Jafar earned a B.Tech. at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, an M.S. at Caltech and a Ph.D. at Stanford University, all in electrical engineering. He’s a fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, and he recently received the UCI Academic Senate’s Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Award for Research. Jafar was also recognized as a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher and included by ScienceWatch among the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds in 2014.