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Electrical Engineer Honored by National Academy of Sciences

San Diego, CA, April 27, 2010 --  The National Academy of Sciences today elected electrical engineering professor Jack K. Wolf and two biology professors at the University of California, San Diego to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors bestowed on U.S. scientists and engineers.

Jack K. Wolf, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Susan S. Golden and Terrence J. Sejnowski, professors of biology, were among the 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected to the academy today “in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

They join 86 current members of the UC San Diego faculty who previously had been named to membership in the academy, which was established by Congress in 1863 to serve as an official adviser to the federal government on matters of science and technology.

Major research universities use the number of academy members on their faculty as a benchmark by which to compare the strength of their scientific research and education programs among universities across the nation in different disciplines.

Jack Wolf
Jack K. Wolf
“Jack Wolf works in the area of information theory, and UCSD has one of the strongest – if not the strongest – academic information theory groups in the country,” said Lawrence Larson, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “Jack played a big role in building this up; he is at the heart of our historical strength in this field, which now includes the UCSD Information Theory and Applications Center.”

Wolf’s achievements include pioneering and sustained contributions to information theory and to digital information storage. 

“From his information theory work, he is probably best known for the Slepian-Wolf theorem, which is a fundamental result that addresses efficient compression of correlated streams of data. It's one of the pillars of information theory,” said Paul Siegel, an electrical engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering and Director of UCSD's Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMRR) – a collaboration between UCSD, companies in the data storage industry and government agencies.

The Slepian-Wolf theorem was published in 1973, but it has seen renewed interest because of applicability to new technologies that involve distributed sensor networks, explained Siegel. “You'll see in the literature that there has been a flurry of papers in recent years that have to do with applications of the Slepian-Wolf theorem.”

Wolf is also an expert in digital information storage and signal processing for digital recording. He was an early proponent of applying information and communications theory to the construction of ultra-high-density information storage. The research results of Wolf and his students have been incorporated in the design of several storage systems. Wolf leads the Signal Processing Group – dubbed the “WolfPack” – within UCSD’s Center for Magnetic Recording Research.

“If you think about saving data on a hard disk, the magnetic medium is imperfect. Jack’s innovations have allowed us to read data to and write data from these magnetic devices with near perfect fidelity. This is at the heart of the information revolution,” said Larson.

Wolf is the Stephen O. Rice Professor of Magnetics at UCSD. He earned his Ph.D. in 1960 from Princeton University, and later taught at New York University, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wolf joined the UCSD faculty in 1984.

Two UCSD Biologists Honered by NAS

“We are honored to have faculty of the caliber of Susan Golden and Terry Sejnowski among us and join in congratulating them,” said Steve Kay, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences. “This powerful validation of their work, combined with two more recent elections to the academy that we have enjoyed in the division, point to how our research mission of contributing to health, the economy and the environment is being recognized worldwide.”

Golden, a distinguished professor in the molecular biology section at UCSD and co-director of the university’s new Center for Chronobiology, came to the San Diego campus in 2008 from Texas A&M University. An expert on the genetics of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, Golden received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Mississippi University for Women and her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Missouri. After postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, she joined the biology faculty at Texas A&M in 1986, where she was promoted to distinguished professor in 2003.

Golden is also an expert on the basic biology of circadian rhythms, or biological clocks, and, as co-director of UCSD’s Center for Chronobiology, she leads a campus-wide effort that brings together researchers studying the biological clocks of diverse groups of organisms, from bacteria to fungi to plants, to better understand the basic biology of circadian rhythms and apply that new understanding to a variety of human problems, from sleep disorders to obesity.

Sejnowski, a professor in the neurobiology section at UCSD, is also The Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, head of its Computational Neurobiology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. His research has focused on the hippocampus, believed to play a major role in learning and memory, and the cerebral cortex, which holds our knowledge of the world and how to interact with it. In his lab, Sejnowski and his colleagues use both experimental and computational modeling techniques to understand normal brain function and mental disorders, including Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.

Sejnowski received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and the Harvard Medical School. He served on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University and was a Wiersma visiting professor of neurobiology and a Sherman Fairchild distinguished scholar at Caltech.

The National Academy of Sciences

The academy’s election was held this morning during the business session of the 147th annual meeting of the academy.  Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,097. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the academy, with citizenship outside the United States.  Today's election brings the total number of foreign associates to 409.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare.  It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Additional information about the Academy and its members is available online at http://www.nasonline.org

Media Contact: Kim McDonald, (858) 534-7572, kmcdonald@ucsd.edu

 

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