Age: 17Los Angeles, CA
Project Title: Scalable and Reconfigurable Optical Tap-Delay-Line for Multichannel Equalization and Correlation of 20-Gbaud QPSK Signals Using Nonlinear Wave Mixing and a Microresonator Kerr Frequency Comb
I’m Ari Willner, and I hail from Los Angeles, California. My passion for math and science drew me towards scientific research, an outlet to not only solve problems but identify them. I am honored to be recognized as a Davidson Fellow, which puts me in company with many outstanding and talented laureates. As a Davidson Fellow, I hope to further my passion in science and research while helping the world around me.
My project enhances optical signal processing, a field in its nascent stages that has great promise. Data generation is growing exponentially; it is increasingly difficult to process raw data into usable knowledge and information, such as in artificial intelligence. It is difficult for advanced electronics to analyze massive video files, gene sequences, and dynamic databases in real-time. However, optics can operate “at the speed of light” and can be simultaneously encoded in multiple dimensions, such as the amplitude, phase, and wavelength. Optical signal processing holds the promise of processing and analyzing massive amounts of data at tremendous speeds. My project uses optics to perform two different signal-processing functions on two independent data channels, each at 40-billion-bits-per-second. These two functions are correlation—rapid pattern matching to a sequence of data bits—and equalization—rapid correction of distorted data bits. My approach uses an optical tapped-delay-line that uniquely exploits the available spectrum. Only two complex optical stages are required for a large number of beneficial “taps,” advancing this optical signal processor’s efficiency and simplicity, which may be important to implementing it into an impactful setting.
My first challenge was learning about the field of optical communications and research in general. I entered the optical communications lab at the University of Southern California knowing little about the field. Over my time in the lab, I learned from my wise mentors, especially Mr. Peicheng Liao, about optics and its vast impact on global communications. As I slowly gained knowledge, I also observed the doctoral students work on their own projects, and I noticed that researchers must think differently than high schoolers: real-world problem solving requires finding a problem before finding its solution. I hoped to help contribute to the field through my own problem solving.
Optical signal processing holds promise, but it must be improved before it can be deployed in an impactful setting. With increasing amounts of data, electronics cannot support its large transfer due to electronics’ penchant for heat, resistance, and overall lower efficiency. Progressing the field of optical signal processing may help handle the growing amounts of data, both on the internet and for humanitarian needs of environmental tracking, genetic sequencing, and quick-time medical diagnostics. However, current optical signal processors are bulky and take up too much space to be useful. Optical signal processors must be compacted into small, integrated circuits for functional use. My research takes a small step towards that goal by stripping unnecessary optical components from the tapped-delay-line, a processing function common in electronics.
I graduated as valedictorian from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles, and I will be taking a gap year to study in Israel. The following year, I will be attending Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, where I will be an Egleston Scholar and intend to major in applied mathematics. Besides for academics, I love playing violin, and I have had the opportunity to play with the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra in Austria, Italy, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. I am also an avid The Office fan and religiously take trivia quizzes on Jetpunk.com.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I hope to be completing a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics or another STEM field.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Stephen Colbert, Ben Franklin, Maimonides, Itzhak Perlman, and David Ben Gurion
If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?The Office
In the News
Ari Willner to be Named a 2019 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Los Angeles – The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 17-year-old Ari Willner of Los Angeles. Willner won a $10,000 scholarship for his project, Scalable and Reconfigurable Optical Tap-Delay-Line for Multichannel Equalization and Correlation of 20-Gbaud QPSK Signals Using Nonlinear Wave Mixing and a Microresonator Kerr Frequency Comb. He is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am honored to be recognized as a Davidson Fellow, which puts me in company with many outstanding and talented laureates,” said Willner. “As a Davidson Fellow, I hope to further my passion in science and research while helping the world around me.”
Data generation is growing exponentially; it is increasingly difficult to process raw data into usable knowledge and information, such as in artificial intelligence, or to analyze massive video files, gene sequences, and dynamic databases in real-time. Optical signal processing can operate “at the speed of light” and holds the promise of processing and analyzing massive amounts of data at tremendous speeds. Willner’s research is a first step towards more compacted, integrated circuits for functional use by stripping unnecessary optical components from the tapped-delay-line, a processing function common in electronics.
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Started in 1999, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a 501(c)3 private operating foundation. Our mission is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people ages 18 and under, and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.