Six Ways Bright Young Researchers Will Make Your Life Better

By Paula Reinman

Each year, the Marconi Society is honored to present the Paul Baran Young Scholar award to a small number of promising young researchers who exhibit the exceptional intellectual, creative and entrepreneurial capabilities needed to advance the Internet and communications.

We are always amazed by the quality of the nominations we receive and the nominees for the 2017 awards continue to set an extraordinary standard.  Thanks to the many leading universities and professional associations who helped us get the word out about this opportunity, we were able to consider an incredibly diverse and accomplished set of researchers. Our nominees came from ten countries and four continents. One-third of them were women. Virtually all of them were award-worthy, and narrowing the field was challenging.

Our nominees give us a bird’s eye view into the issues that the best researchers in the world are addressing right now. Some of these issues are on-going and some are new – all are intriguing and consistent with Guglielmo Marconi’s vision of supporting scientific achievements in communications and the Internet that significantly benefit mankind.

Here are six areas that young researchers are focused on to make our lives better:

Building the Wide New World of Wireless

There are nearly as many cell phone subscribers as there are people in the world, and even in landline strongholds like the US, there are now more cell phones than land line phones. This demand and the growing capacity and capability of wireless networks are driving high levels of interest in all things wireless among Young Scholar nominees.

Whether by enabling new wireless applications by breaking Lorentz Reciprocity and removing its limitations, developing ways to better use existing spectrum or creating the metrics and models that show that 5G will work everywhere, young researchers are creating the wireless world that consumers demand.

Delivering on the Internet of Everything Promise

We’ve all heard the numbers before: By 2020, we expect billions of devices to be connected to the network. While it’s predictable that there is plenty of Internet of Things action by young researchers, there are specific areas that pop out.

“Location, location, location” is the mantra in real estate, but it could also be the IoT chant. We expect accurate locations for all people and things in all places, from finding a restaurant to locating a buddy on the battlefield. Young researchers are working to improve efficiency, accuracy and ubiquity of wireless location detection systems.

Others are focused on the IoT infrastructure, including improvements in resource allocation and scheduling algorithms in wireless networks.

And still others are addressing critical security issues that Internet pioneers, including Vint Cerf and Leonard Kleinrock, are consumed with today.

Redefining the Laws of Physics

In 2013, Young Scholar Salvatore Campione was honored for his work in changing the basic physical properties of materials to support new applications in areas ranging from medical diagnostics to solar cells. As he continues this work, we see more young researchers changing the very nature of materials to enable different applications or to overcome fundamental limitations.

This year’s nominees continue this trend through innovative work to use the unique properties of metamaterials in order to manipulate and sculpt electromagnetic fields and design novel devices to support different applications. Some are developing new methods for wave shaping that can be used in many applications from glasses to microscopes to imaging devices in healthcare and optical data communications.

Expanding the limits of learning

By identifying and pushing the boundaries on data processing, young researchers are developing ways to improve deep learning.

These innovations underpin improvements in areas like natural language processing, enabling sophisticated applications to work in low bandwidth environments with simple devices.

Satisfying Our Insatiable Appetite for Bandwidth and Speed

Whether you’re trying to stream the latest episode of Game of Thrones or run a network for any size of business, bandwidth is a universal pain point.

A number of young researchers are working on continued advances in data signal processing (DSP) to meet our infinite demand for bandwidth, including improving the flexibility, speed and reach of access networks and developing fiber optic parametric amplifiers for applications in ultra-high capacity communications systems. Other approaches include addressing the upcoming bandwidth crunch by creating ways to scale information capacity without relying on DSP.

Extending the Infrastructure

Continuing a trend from last year and likely extending into the foreseeable future, there is a focus on augmenting and extending the existing core, long haul, metro and access networks to support the ongoing onslaught of devices and applications.

Techniques to ensure backward compatibility with legacy networks continue to be a hot topic as all network providers look to extend their capital investments.

Other researchers are focused on the optical networks of the future, including new optical plane architectures that allow flexible, low latency and scalable next generation all optical intra data center networks and high performance computing interconnection.

We look forward to honoring the 2017 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholars and cannot wait to see what next year’s nominations bring.