The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announces that 2011 Claude E. Shannon Research Assistantships are being awarded to Mr. Jonathan Perry, Mr. John Sun, and Mr. Da Wang, all of whom are doctoral students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Mr. Perry’s Ph.D. research is being co-supervised by Profs. Hari Balakrishnan and Devarat Shah.  It is addressing a fundamental problem in wireless communication networks, namely achieving high throughput in the presence of noise, attenuation, interference, and multipath fading, whose deleterious effects are compounded by their being time-varying.  Mr. Perry has developed a new class of rateless channel codes, dubbed spinal codes, together with a practical link protocol, called Cortex, that are the first such codes to approach the Shannon capacity for Gaussian channels with a fast decoder.

Mr. Sun is a student of Prof. Vivek Goyal.  His doctoral research is addressing coding in distributed systems that acquire information from sensors and communicate among nodes in order to complete a computation.  The overarching goal of his work is to find ways to best exploit the dependencies between measurements, and to tune the system to tasks other than simple low mean-squared error reconstructions, while being robust to the quantity of available data, and insensitive to inaccurate knowledge of the dependencies.  So far, he has taken several steps that go beyond Slepian-Wolf coding for correlation sources, by allowing a small amount of communication among encoders, and considering completion of a distributed computation rather than just simple source reconstructions.

Mr. Wang’s doctoral research is being supervised by Prof. Gregory Wornell, who also supervised his S.M. work.  In his S.M. thesis, Mr. Wang considered joint synchronization and coding for slotted asynchronous channels, such as might arise in sensor networks.  There he developed error exponents for the miss (a codeword misinterpreted as noise) and false-alarm (noise misinterpreted as a codeword) probabilities.  Using these error exponents, he showed the substantial sub-optimality of training-based schemes, which separate synchronization from information transmission, in comparison with coding schemes he proposed that simultaneously perform synchronization and communication.

Claude E. Shannon, the father of information theory, served on the MIT faculty as a member of the Electrical Engineering and Mathematics departments, and the Research Laboratory of Electronics from 1956 until 1978.  After Prof. Shannon’s death in 2001, his wife, Betty Shannon launched a fund in his memory at MIT to support students doing basic research in communication.  A subsequent donation from Dr. Richard Barry has made possible additional support for such student research in communication.  The selection of Mr. Perry, Mr. Sun, and Mr. Wang was done by a committee consisting of Profs. Vincent Chan, Anantha Chandrakasan, Robert Gallager, and Jeffrey H. Shapiro (Chair).  The Shannon Research Assistant awardees will be honored at a luncheon later this month.

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