Home > Ding Nie Honored with 2018 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Ding Nie Honored with 2018 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Leslie Lestinsky • DATE: September 11, 2018


The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, will honor Ding Nie, an Apple engineer and University of Notre Dame Ph.D. in electrical engineering, with a 2018 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award for his work in developing models and systems to greatly increase throughput in wireless systems.

Ten to 20 years ago, technical advances in mobile systems and accompanying consumer demand started the shift from single to multiple antennas. While multiple antennas theoretically increase throughput, they often suffer from issues associated with coupling, or the transmission of power between the antennas. The Bode-Fano theoretical limit for antenna throughput and bandwidth, established in the 1940s, does not account for such coupling. Nie focused on turning coupling from a throughput liability into an asset and developed new throughput bounds for today’s multi-antenna systems, allowing engineers to understand the interplay of coupling and bandwidth. His work guides the design of antennas and circuits that lead to increased throughput and faster wireless communications for consumers worldwide.

“Ding is the kind of person that you can let loose on a problem with little guidance and he comes up with very original ideas for solutions. He made a big advance in solving an open problem by coming up with new results that let us apply Bode-Fano bounds to multi antenna systems,” says Bertrand Hochwald, Nie’s advisor. “Ding’s work is so important that it attracted funding and leaves a legacy in my lab for another group of researchers.”

The consumer and commercial benefit of Nie’s work can be significant. In a world where all devices include multiple antennas and coupling, antenna and circuit designers can now understand the maximum throughput that their systems are capable of. Nie’s models will help grow the burgeoning 5G market, which will use millimeter waves (mmWaves) and require even more antennas inside of devices. This work also has applications in wireless power transfer, such as wireless cell phone charging using a pad or coils. A single charging pad contains multiple coils and coupling exists between the coils, providing another critical use for Nie’s models and systems.

While many engineers believe that coupling is detrimental to circuit performance, Nie’s research shows that it can be beneficial if the circuit is designed correctly and matches the antenna to the signal sources correctly to achieve throughput that is greater than when coupling does not exist.

“I enjoy solving problems that allow me to stand on the shoulders of giants. I developed my research by reading Bode and Fano’s original work. This helped me see the wisdom beyond their papers and books and to understand how their math works so perfectly,” says Nie. “I found it very inspirational.”

A native of China, Nie received his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He worked for Broadcom Corporation before completing his graduate work at the University of Notre Dame in 2016 and joining Apple as an RF system integration engineer.

“The Marconi Society’s Young Scholar Award honors those that are creating the next generation of our connected world,” says Vinton Cerf, chairman of the Marconi Society. “Ding’s fundamental discoveries have the potential to impact mobile consumers around the world and to help new technologies, such as 5G, deliver on their promise.”

“This topic of multiple antennas and coupling is not very well understood and is very difficult to characterize,” says Nie. “The Marconi Society Young Scholar Award gives me inspiration and encouragement to keep up my research.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies and receive a $5,000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. Three other Young Scholars were also selected this year.

All will receive their awards October 2nd in Bologna, Italy, at the same event where Akamai co-founder F. Thomson Leighton, a key contributor to the development of content delivery networks, will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize.

About the Marconi Society

Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. More information may be found at www.marconisociety.org