Joint Colloquium Distinguished Lecture Series

Network Information Theory

Abbas El Gamal

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Abbas El Gamal
Professor and Director, Information Systems Laboratory, Stanford University

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Few mathematical results have had as much impact on the foundation of the information age as Shannon's 1948 point-to-point communication theorems and the Ford--Fulkerson 1956 max-flow min-cut theorem.  However,  the model of a network as consisting of point-to-point links and dumb forwarding nodes assumed in these seminal contributions does not capture key aspects of the emerging wireless network based information age. The wireless channel is inherently a shared, broadcast medium, naturally allowing for multicasting, but also creating a complex tradeoff between competition for resources and cooperation for the common good. Many new network applications require very high data rates (video), are highly interactive (games), and are distributed in nature (peer-to-peer, distributed mobile agents), requiring more judicious optimization of network resources and the development of new communication and computing schemes.

Work on network information theory over the past 40 years has aimed to capture these tradeoffs and challenges by studying network models with multiple sources and destinations, broadcasting, interference, relaying, distributed compression, and distributed computing. Although a complete theory is yet to be developed, several beautiful (and perhaps useful) results have been developed. I will review some of these results and present a recent result that extends network coding to noisy multi-source multicast networks.


Abbas El Gamal is the Hitachi America Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University. He received his B.Sc Honors degree from Cairo University in 1972, the M.S. in Statistics and the PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1977 and 1978, respectively. His research interests and contributions are in the areas of network information theory, digital imaging, and integrated circuit design. He has contributed over 180 papers and 30 patents in these areas.  He has cofounded and served on the board of directors and advisory boards of several Silicon Valley companies. He is visiting Berkeley this fall as a McKay Fellow.

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