Wim Sweldens, 32
Lucent Technologies Bell Laboratories
Everybody wants pretty pictures on their screens but nobody wants to wait eons for a download, nor do they want image files to occupy their entire hard drive. Thus the critical importance of image compression mathematical algorithms that condense visual information into the smallest possible number of bits. In recent years "wavelets" have emerged as an effective and flexible alternative to the once-standard technique known as Fourier transforms. The latest generation of wavelets are proving adept at processing three-dimensional forms such as spheres and textured surfaces. This new mathematical frame-work was developed by Wim Sweldens as a postdoc at the University of South Carolina, following work on wavelets for his doctorate in applied mathematics at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. Sweldens, a Belgian national, has also pursued his research at Interval Research in Palo Alto. Now a permanent resident of the United States, Sweldens has been a member of the technical staff of Bell Labs since 1995.He is now working on a signal-processing challenge in digital mobile communications employing a matrix of antennas to turn radio interference into additional bandwidth.His research could lead to fewer dropped calls, lower battery drain on pocket telephones, and more bandwidth for wireless data transmissions. Sweldens works hard to spread the gospel of wavelets: He established and continues to edit Wavelet Digest, a monthly newsletter with 15,000 subscribers, which MIT mathematics professor Gilbert Strang calls "a key place for the exchange of news about wavelets."