Vahid Tarokh, 34
Iran native Vahid Tarokh works so quickly that by the time people apply his advances, he is often on to something else. Such is the case with his breakthrough codes to improve the speed, capacity and clarity of wireless voice and data communications. He developed the codes in 1996 at AT&T Labs, yet U.S. and international telecom standards bodies didn’t adopt them until 1999.Tarokh’s codes solved the problem of how best to get a signal from a base station to a cellular phone without fading. Solutions proposed by others, such as adding an extra antenna to the phone or sending the same signal on different frequencies, weren’t practical, so he created algorithms whereby multiple antennas at the base station could send the same signal simultaneously on the same frequency. For two months Tarokh worked day and night handcrafting his solution on huge sheets of paper. He moved to MIT in 2000 to work on “orthogonal frequency division multiplexing,” an advanced scheme for wide- band wireless communications. This summer Tarokh joins Harvard University as an electrical engineering professor.