Bill Ping Piu Kuo

Bill Ping Piu KuoBill Ping Piu Kuo, a stellar photonics student who is about to receive his doctorate of philosophy in electrical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, is one of three students worldwide to be honored by the prestigious Marconi Society. He was selected a Marconi Young Scholar in part because of key work in ultra-fast signal processing based on parametric mixers.

As the leading organization devoted to recognizing and encouraging scientific contributions to communication sciences and the Internet, the Marconi Society annually honors young scholars who already are engaged in influential work and are likely to transform their fields in some significant way. All three of this year’s Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award recipients are completing their doctorates while making vital contributions to the world’s “need for speed” – our increasing imperative to be able to send and receive data as quickly and economically as possible.

Though intricate and often theoretical, their research is aimed at making communications faster and more efficient, giving people everyday benefits -- from better video-on-demand service to improved MRI scans that yield medical images in a quicker and thus more comfortable way.

Kuo’s optical signal processing research is prompted by the problem of ever-increasing stress on the capacity of transmission systems. He has concentrated on developing wideband optical parametric mixers and ultra-fast transmission schemes to send and receive signals of unprecedented speed and quality – and with record low power consumption. That has opened a pathway to realize a photonic-aided analog-to-digital converter system with unprecedented bandwidth and fidelity. “I would like to try to commercialize the technology,” said Kuo, who plans to do so in conjunction with UCSD.

Having been first in his class while earning a bachelor’s degree in electronic and communications engineering and then a master of philosophy in electronic engineering from the University of Hong Kong, he became an immediate standout at UCSD.

His supervisor there, Photonics System Laboratory Director Stojan Radic, observed that Kuo has contributed to more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, including prestigious post-deadline and invited papers at events such as the Optical Fiber Communications Conference. “It is safe to say that he does not have a peer in this field at his present age,” said Radic, who described Kuo as “unconditionally regarded as the best researcher of (his) group or the department to date.” He said Kuo’s leadership and vision on parametric signal processing “has resulted in completely new signal processing architectures and newfound ability to manipulate fast signals.”

To illustrate the value of Kuo’s work, Radic likens optic fiber to a large fire hose gushing with the fluids of information – so much that today’s electronics simply aren’t fast enough to consume it all. “So what Bill has done is take this fire hose and split it into little straws, and these straws can be sipped by conventional electronics.” Such breakthroughs, by allowing quicker and more efficient transmissions, could for example rescue systems capable of streaming high-quality video, which otherwise are in danger of collapsing under increasing demand.

The Marconi Young Scholar Awards are named in honor of Paul Baran, a Marconi Fellow famous for helping devise the technical inner-workings of the Arpanet, the government-sponsored precursor to the Internet. Nonetheless, Baran always declined to be called the inventor of the Internet, instead likening it to a vast cathedral built by countless people continually adding their own stones to reshape its image.

This marks the fourth year that Young Scholars Awards have been granted by the Marconi Society, which is best known for its annual $100,000 Marconi Award and Fellowship given to living scientists whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of “creativity in service to humanity." As Marconi Society Chairman Emeritus Robert Lucky noted, the scholars selection committee “looks for candidates who show the potential to win the Marconi Prize -- the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in communications science -- at some point in the future. As a point of reference, Marconi Fellows have been at the forefront of every modern advance in telecommunications and the Internet.”

The Young Scholar Awards include a financial stipend and an invitation and travel funds to attend the annual Marconi Award Dinner, to be held in September in San Diego.