Vahid Tarokh elected member of National Academy of Engineering

Vahid Tarokh

Vahid Tarokh, the Rhodes Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named members of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Election to the NAE is one of the highest professional distinctions for engineers.  Tarokh was among the 86 new members and 18 foreign members announced by the NAE Thursday, and join seven other faculty at Duke University who also hold the distinction.  Tarokh was cited for contributions to space-time coding and its applications to multi-antenna wireless communications.

Vahid Tarokh holds appointments in the departments of electrical and computer engineering, computer science, and mathematics.  He was a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years and Harvard University for 16 years before joining Duke in 2018. One of the world’s most cited researchers in computer science, Tarokh is known for his singular contributions to signal processing and current work to create new methods for modeling and making predictions from small amounts of data.

While working for AT&T Labs in the late 1990s, Tarokh helped invent the algorithms called space-time codes that most modern cellular phones use to transmit data. During his time at Harvard, Tarokh did early foundational work on distributed communications, spectrum sharing and cognitive radios, which help share the spectrum in various bands. He later became interested in researching various areas of signal processing and its applications to radar, interferometry and biology.

At Duke, Tarokh is pursuing collaborations aimed at getting the most possible out of small sets of data. For example, he currently has a project aimed at determining how different people will respond after exposure to certain viruses. And as a newly named Microsoft Data Science Investigator, he also has ongoing collaborations focused on inventing new methods for securing and maximizing the Internet of Things and designing brain-inspired organic networks that can reorganize themselves.

“Vahid Tarokh has made incredible contributions across a broad spectrum of interests, from cryptography to signal processing and analysis to mathematical modeling of highly complex phenomena,” said Krishnendu Chakrabarty, chair of Duke’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “While his inventions have had major impacts on industry, he also embodies the best of academia--excellence in scholarship, thought leadership, teamwork and collegiality. He is an inspiration to his colleagues and a role model for his students and associates. We are fortunate to have him as a faculty colleague at Duke.”

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition, which I owe particularly to the work of my wonderful students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues over the course of my career,” said Tarokh. “Special thanks to Professor Rob Calderbank for his mentorship and support over many years.  I would also like to acknowledge my mother and uncle who struggled to save and educate me in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution amid tremendous hostilities of the Iranian government.”

As a member of NAE, Tarokh will help carry out the academy’s mission of providing engineering leadership in service to the nation. He joins more than 2,500 peer-elected members and foreign members in the NAE, which serves as an advisor to the federal government and conducts independent studies to examine important topics in engineering and technology.

Other current members of the NAE from Duke include Robert Calderbank, Ingrid Daubechies, Earl Dowell, Henry Petroski, Jennifer West, Mark Wiesner and Blake Wilson.