Hamed Hassani wins the 2014 Thomas M. Cover Dissertation Award

© 2014 EPFL

© 2014 EPFL

Hamed Hassani, former student at the Communication Theory Laboratory (LTHC), headed by Prof. Ruediger Urbanke, won the inaugural Thomas M. Cover Dissertation Award for his PhD dissertation which was jointly supervised by Nicolas Macris and Ruediger Urbanke. Read on for a brief summary of this thesis work.

Over the past two decades, we have witnessed considerable activity in building bridges across the fields of information theory/communications, computer science and statistical physics. This is due to a realization that many fundamental concepts and notions in these fields are in fact related and that each field can benefit from the insight and techniques developed in the others.

For instance, the notion of channel capacity in information theory, threshold phenomena in computer science and phase transitions in statistical physics are all expressions of the same concept. Therefore, it would be beneficial to develop a common framework that unifies these notions and possibly leverage knowledge in one field to make progress in the others. A particularly striking example is the celebrated belief propagation algorithm. It was independently invented in each of these fields but for very different purposes. The realization of commonality has benefited each field.

In this thesis, titled Polarization and Spatial Coupling: Two Techniques to Boost Performance, we investigate polarization and spatial coupling: two techniques that were originally invented in the context of channel coding (communications), thus resulting for the first time in efficient capacity-achieving codes for a wide range of channels. We assert that both techniques also play a fundamental role in computer science and statistical physics and so these two techniques can be seen as additional fundamental building blocks that unite all three fields. We demonstrate applications of these techniques as well as the fundamental phenomena they provide. Read the full version of the thesis here.

Currently, Hamed is a post-doc at ETH Zurich in the Learning & Adaptive Systems group directed by Prof. Andreas Krause. His current research interests are: information theory and coding, graphical models: theory and algorithms and machine learning.

The IEEE Information Theory Society's Thomas M. Cover Dissertation Award, established in 2013, is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding doctoral dissertation that contributes to the mathematical foundations of any of the information sciences within the Society's purview.

Thomas M. Cover was one of the giants of information theory. Many of his works are considered fundamental contributions to the field. He was also an exceptionally inspiring teacher. He is a co-author of the book Elements of Information Theory, which has become the most widely used textbook in the field.