Dina Katabi, professor in the MIT EECS Department, principal investigator in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and co-director of Wireless@MIT has been selected as a 2013-14 MacArthur Fellow. She is cited by the MacArthur Fellows Program for her work "at the interface of computer science and electrical engineering to improve the speed, reliability, and security of data exchange. Katabi has contributed to a range of networking issues, from protocols to minimize congestion in high-bandwidth networks to algorithms for spectrum analysis, though most of her work centers on wireless data transmission." She is noted, along with six of the 24 Fellows in the MacArthur 2013 class -- for her pioneering insights into—in her case, the reliability and security of wireless networks.
The MacArthur MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Between June of 1981 and September of 2012, 897 Fellows have been named.
Read the article posted with the 2013 MacArthur Fellows Sept. 24 announcement below. Also see the Sept 25, 2013 MIT News Office article by Jennifer Chu and Larry Hardesty titled " Dina Katabi and Sara Seager win MacArthur 'genius grants - Two MIT professors are among 24 recipients nationwide of this year’s unrestricted $625,000 prizes from the MacArthur Foundation."
Dina Katabi is a communications researcher working at the interface of computer science and electrical engineering to improve the speed, reliability, and security of data exchange. Katabi has contributed to a range of networking issues, from protocols to minimize congestion in high-bandwidth networks to algorithms for spectrum analysis, though most of her work centers on wireless data transmission.
In WiFi (802.11) networks, it is common for two devices to send packets of information nearly simultaneously, resulting in partial data loss and rejection of both packets, a process that is repeated until each packet is transmitted without interference. Katabi and colleagues developed a “ZigZag” algorithm that reconstructs the contents of the collided packets by combining the usable fragments from each, thereby reducing the retransmission rates significantly. Additionally, while WiFi signals are typically thought of as communication signals, Katabi and her students have shown that they can be used to track the movements of humans, even if they are in a closed room or behind a wall. This technology can also be used to send commands to a computer via a person’s gestures as the signals reflect off of the person’s body.
Because 802.11 networks are radio broadcasts, their signals are vulnerable to interception and manipulation by nefarious third parties. Katabi designed a method that uses random wireless signals to protect low-power devices during the exchange of encryption keys and make it impossible for intermediaries to insert themselves undetected (“man-in-the-middle” attack) in the data stream. For safety reasons, some wireless devices need to transmit unencrypted data—for example, pacemakers—which makes them sensitive to malevolent interference. She and her colleagues are designing wearable devices that protect pacemakers against unwanted manipulation while allowing medical personnel emergency access without security codes.
Additional projects, such as showing the potential of radio interference to increase bandwidth and developing data protocols that address network congestion, demonstrate Katabi’s ability to translate long-recognized theoretical advances into practical solutions that could be deployed in the real world. Through her numerous contributions, Katabi has become a leader in accelerating our capacity to communicate high volumes of information securely without restricting mobility.
Dina Katabi received a B.S. (1995) from Damascus University and an M.S. (1999) and Ph.D. (2003) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She joined the faculty of MIT in 2003, where she is currently a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing (Wireless@MIT), and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where she leads the Networks at MIT group (NETMIT).