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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Courtesy Mung Chiang  

Mung Chiang, 30

Optimizing networks

Princeton University

Mung Chiang likes to say that there's nothing more practical than a good theory. An assistant professor of electrical engineering, he improves the design of telecommunications networks by applying the mathematics of optimization theory. Through industry collaborations, his algorithms are revolutionizing the backbone of the Internet, the broadband connections that bring data and video to homes and offices, and wireless networks of every stripe.


In one project, Chiang and coworkers found a way around the limits of the current Internet routing protocol, which sends packets along the shortest available paths on the network. It's a seemingly straightforward strategy that ends up causing complex n­etwork-management problems. The researchers realized there were advantages to sending the occasional packet along a longer path; the new algorithm achieves the lowest computational cost possible for a routing protocol and increases network capacity by 15 percent--without adding equipment to the network.


Though the real-world impact of his work matters to Chiang, he says another important motivation is the beauty of an airtight mathematical proof. "I'm an engineer at heart," he says, "and a mathematician in my brain."


--Brendan Borrell

2007 TR35 Winners

Sanjit Biswas

Cheap, easy Internet access

Josh Bongard

Adaptive robots

Garrett Camp

Discovering more of the Web

Mung Chiang

Optimizing networks

Tadayoshi Kohno

Securing systems cryptographically

Tariq Krim

Building a personal, dynamic Web page

Ivan Krstic´

Making antivirus software obsolete

Jeff LaPorte

Internet-based calling from mobile phones

Karen Liu

Bringing body language to computer-animated characters

Anna Lysyanskaya

Securing online privacy

Tapan Parikh

Simple, powerful mobile tools for developing economies

Babak Parviz

Self-assembling micromachines

Partha Ranganathan

Power-aware computing systems

Kevin Rose

Online social bookmarking

Marc Sciamanna

Controlling chaos in telecom lasers

Desney Tan

Teaching computers to read minds

Luis von Ahn

Using “captchas” to digitize books

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