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News Release

UC San Diego Inaugurates Information Theory and Applications Center in Calit2

San Diego, CA, February 11, 2006 -- The University of California , San Diego has created a new research center to explore and apply the basic theory that underpins the digital revolution. The Information Theory and Applications Center (ITA) will study the fundamentals of information theory and develop related applications in communications, computer science, bioinformatics, statistics, finance and other disciplines.

Alon Orlitsky
Alon Orlitsky
Director, ITA Center
Professor, ECE and CSE

As part of the UCSD Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), ITA draws faculty and graduate students from the university's Jacobs School of Engineering and affiliated research units including the Center for Magnetic Recording Research, Center for Wireless Commu nications, and San Diego Supercomputer Center. Initial funding will come from Calit2, which hopes to leverage synergies among UCSD researchers to attract federal as well as corporate support for an ambitious research agenda that will range from theoretical work to applications with near-term commercialization potential .

"UCSD has amassed a world-class collection of faculty with extensive experience in information theory," said Ramesh Rao, director of Calit2's UCSD Division and himself a former member of the governing board of the IEEE Information Theory Society. "In opening this new center, we hope to galvanize cross-disciplinary research among UCSD faculty, and to harness breakthroughs in information theory for the benefit of California businesses and citizens."

The university has appointed Alon Orlitsky to direct the new initiative.  Orlitsky holds a joint appointment in the school's Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) departments. "Professor Orlitsky is uniquely equipped to organize both the theoretical and applied areas of this new research endeavor," said Jacobs School Dean Frieder Seible. "He has worked in both industry and academia on projects ranging from data compression and communication to quantitative investment. So he is keenly aware of the potential real-world benefits of information theory."


     The inauguration of the ITA Center was webcast live on the Web. To watch an archive of the talks at the event, click here. Calit2 and the Jacobs School have hosted numerous seminars and conferences on information theory since the Shannon Symposium at UCSD in October 2001. Talks by many of the field's leading experts -- including one by ITA founding director Alon Orlitsky -- are  available as streaming video and PowerPoint presentations.. 

Since they were launched in 2003, the annual Shannon Memorial Lecture organized by ECE professor Jack Wolf has explored a wide range of topics related to information theory. Those lectures are also available in streaming video on the Web:

  - 2005: Rob ert McEliece, Caltech on Are there Turbo-Codes on Mars? 1:00:43; 
  - 2004: Lloyd Welch, USC on Hidden Markov Models and the
           Baum-Welch Algorithm
  44:17; and
  - 2003: Toby Berger, Cornell on  Information Theory in Neural Nets  1:15:56

Calit2 and the Jacobs School also produced a documentary on the father of information theory, Claude Shannon, that aired originally on UCSD-TV. To watch that half-hour program, "Claude Shannon: Father of the Information Age," click here.

Orlitsky was a quantitative analyst with the investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co. before joining the UCSD faculty in 1997. Previously, he Orlitsky was a technical staff member at AT&T Bell Labs' Mathematical Sciences Research Center, after receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1986.

The new center was inaugurated as part of a week-long workshop held in Calit2's recently-opened building on the UCSD campus.

"In addition to conducting the research itself, we will focus on collaborations with other leading researchers and institutions, and on introducing the UCSD and Calit2 communities to the most up-to-date information technology research," ITA director Orlitsky said before the inaugural workshop he organized Feb. 6-10. "The roster of attendees participating in this inaugural workshop, and hopefully our future conferences, symposiums and short courses, will reflect a cross-section of international experts from both the academic and corporate research communities."

Information theory is nothing new to the UCSD campus. It has flourished in ECE and other departments ever since it was propounded by mathematician Claude Shannon over fifty years ago. Early UCSD engineering professor Irwin Jacobs and professor emeritus Andrew Viterbi went on to found Linkabit and QUALCOMM, two companies that applied the concepts of information theory to digital communications -- creating many innovations in the process, including third-generation CDMA cell -phone technology. Both Viterbi and Jacobs participated in ITA's inauguration.

(Viterbi in 1991 and ECE professor Jack Wolf ten years later won the IEEE Information Theory Society's highest honor, the Claude E. Shannon Award.)

Two ECE faculty members currently sit on the IEEE society's Board of Governors: Kenneth Zeger, and Alexander Vardy. Vardy also won the society's most recent best-paper award, jointly with Ralf Koetter of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for their work on algebraic soft-decision decoding of Reed-Solomon codes.

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey
Jacobs School of Engineering