Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alexander Vardy Named Jack Keil Wolf Chair in Electrical Engineering.

Electrical engineering Professor Alexander Vardy, a renowned researcher in information and coding theory, has been appointed as the first Jack Keil Wolf Endowed Chair in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. The endowed chair was established in memory of Jack Keil Wolf, a longtime professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and a pioneer in information theory and its applications.

The chair has been endowed with funds raised in honor and memory of Wolf’s lifetime of professional achievements in research and teaching. More than 50 people, including colleagues, former students, friends and family contributed to the fund. Vardy said the scope of the contributors is a tribute to Wolf’s impact in the lives of so many.  
Professor Alexander Vardy, Jack Keil Wolf Chair in Electrical Engineering.
 “Being appointed to the Jack Keil Wolf Chair is such a tremendous honor. Jack Wolf was a shining light,” said Vardy. “For me, personally, he was a role model throughout my career; I know that this is a feeling I share with many people. It is with the greatest gratitude and humility that I would like to thank the donors to the Wolf Chair, large and small. Indeed, Jack was like a bright torch that lit the paths of countless people. I am extremely honored to have the opportunity of carrying forward a bit of that flame.”

That flame, at least on the research side of Wolf’s legacy, is important in the fields of information theory and coding theory. Information theory is a branch of applied mathematics and electrical engineering concerned with transmitting data from point A to point B without error. Whether that data is images taken by a spacecraft on Mars or photos taken on your smartphone, it is converted into a sequence of ones and zeros and bundled into packets to transmit down the line. Claude E. Shannon, who developed the field of information theory in the 1940s and 50s, posited that it was possible to achieve what he called “channel capacity” -- that is, perfect data transmission which is both reliable and efficient. This Holy Grail of capacity -- that you could transmit data without error while sacrificing the bare minimum in storage space or transmission time -- has driven the research of coding theorists, including Wolf and Vardy, for decades. 

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