A World of Bits
Wireless and Beyond

Interaction is often defined in terms of empirical observation about outcomes and relationships -- reactants move toward some equilibrium, momentum and energy are conserved, elements of an organism ``signal'' each other chemically, mechanically and electrically. These observations are mathematically framed and the resulting equations often have great predictive power -- which is the whole point of science. However, any interaction is a communication and communication implies some sort of information exchange, in essence a quantification or even digitization of what is knowable about systems and their elements. So, to any communication theorist trained in the physical sciences, a basic question comes immediately to mind -- what are all these interacting elements saying to one another, how are they saying it and can I join the conversation?

SJ Gates' Adinkrasslinkydyspan'05Huppler_9drisophiladevelet might write
              nature cover Chris Rose

NEW for 2022/23

Brown University Provost's STEM Postdoctoral Fellowship

for Diversity Inclusion and Impact


MIT Equity Forum Panel: Equity in Engineering Education

Slides: Institutional Change via STEMJazz

Companion MIT Alum Piece


SoE Faculty

Christopher Rose (Chris)   received the S.B. (1979), S.M. (1981) and Ph.D. (1985) degrees all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Chris Fall 2022 Following graduate school, he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J.  as a member of the Network Systems Research Department where he regaled his peers with levitated center conductor Hi-Tc superconducting cables, annoyed them by showing random lightwave network architectures performed as well as carefully sculpted ones, and puzzled them with odd applications of cellular automata.  In 1990 when Arno (Penzias) told everyone in "Area 11" to go to academe if they were not keenly interested in the corporate bottom line (including his Nobel partner Bob [Wilson]), Chris  was congratulated on his timing as he joined the E&CE at Rutgers University the very next week.  He was a Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Rutgers University until 2015 when he joined Brown University as a Professor of Engineering and Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives. In 2020 he was appointed Associate Provost for STEM Initiatives, and now serves as the Director of STEMJazz Programs, also at Brown.  Chris is a Fellow of the IEEE, cited "for contributions to wireless communication systems theory" and has also served as a full member of the Army Science Board (2013--2014).

He has served as an Associate Director of the Wireless Networks Laboratory (WINLAB) (1999-2007) and his current technical interests include applications of communication/information theory to just about everything including biology, (nano/micro/macro)mechanical systems and tantalizingly, maybe even supersymmetry through Jim Gates' intriguing Adinkras formalism as it  rapidly evolves. Here's a fun talk he gave at ITA'13.

Past wireless interests have included novel mobile communications networks, applications of genetic algorithms to control problems in communications networks and interference avoidance methods using universal radios to foster peaceful coexistence in what will be the wireless ecology of the 5GHz U-NII bands.  This work, co-authored with Sennur Ulukus  and Roy Yates,  received the 2003 IEEE Marconi Prize Paper Award in Wireless Communications.     Here's a picture of the ecstatic authors at the Globecom 2004 awards ceremony (picture credit: Aylin Yener).

For fun, as an outgrowth of research on opportunistic communications,  he also considered the details of a  problem everyone has wondered about at one time or another: how will our first extraterrestrial civilization contact occur? The interesting twist is that it can be FAR more efficient for distant  "little green people" to send information-bearing physical artifacts than electromagnetic signals -- seemingly at odds with current SETI wisdom. This work was featured on the cover of the September 2, 2004 issue of Nature and can be found (along with an astounding amount of press coverage, including a NY Times Editorial!!!)  under the tongue-in-cheek rubric cosmic communications.   Here's an associated cartoon competition!

Chris was certainly surprised by the Rutgers Engineering Governing Council, a student group which spans all of engineering, with a 2005-2006 Teaching Excellence Award in E&CE.  However, he almost fainted when told he had won the 2008-2009 Teaching Excellence Award in E&CE.  Lightning, it seems, sometimes DOES strike twice!  Apparently the free beer and pizza served during every class is working well!   In fact, it seems to have worked so well that lightning struck THREE TIMES with a 2009-2010 Teaching Excellence Award in E&CE by the EGC win.   Perhaps a formalism is in order.

Theorem:  Beer + Pizza = Academic Excellence
Proof:  3 EGC teaching award wins smiley  Q.E.D.

And it seems there's a STUNNING corollary for 2011 that actually brought tears (manly ones of course!smiley) to his eyes when informed:

Corollary 2011:  Beer + Pizza + BBQ = Universal Academic Excellence
Proof:  2011 EGC Best Teacher in Engineering Award   Q.E.D.

2013: Chris thinks that Rutgers ECE students might be masochists. There's really no other explanation. His unrepentant torture of tender young sophomores with an intro EE class in the Fall of 2012 was rewarded with the 2012-13 EGC Teaching Excellence in ECE Award. Or maybe they just love pizza and beer more than they hate intellectual pain. smiley

Seriously:  Thank you (teetotaling, at least in my classes smiley) Rutgers E&CE and SoE Undergrads for your unflagging support! It means a lot to an (increasingly) old man! smiley

2016:  The Brown Center for Students of Color was somehow tricked into giving me the 2016 ONYX Society Award.  I'm not exactly sure what I did beyond the ordinary advising and counseling to help move various initiatives forward, but it is nonetheless deeply appreciated.  Put another way, Brown undergraduates are just amazing -- make a simple suggestion and POOF it gets done better than you could have imagined.  Brilliant AND self-starting!  What's not to love?!?!

2022:  The IEEE Education Society was also tricked into awarding Chris the 2022 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award. Amazingly it came with a plaque AND a medal and required an acceptance speechNews From Brown also did a rather nice piece.  I was thrilled at the award, but primarily thrilled about the REASONS it was given: “For innovations in team-oriented signature design and inspiring women and under-represented minority students to pursue engineering.”

Here is a formal (pure academic puffery) Curriculum Vitae in PDF format and Chris' Wikipedia page  (personal puffery).  Here is some increasingly ancient conference/service puffery if you're curious about my mis-spent academic adolescencesmiley.  Chris can be reached at Christopher_Rose AT brown dot edu and also at crose AT winlab dot rutgers dot edu.

Cool Presidential Lecture Series at Brown

Decypering Mysteries of Our World and Beyond


A Different Type of Cellular Communication:
Huppler_9After submitting a proposal on communication theory in biological systems  to the NSF CDI competition, I stumbled across this neat drawing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  The title is Art and Nature, and the artist is Dudley Huppler.  My interpretation?  Science is crisp and neat. Nature is messy,  composed of myriad inter-communicating actors. Yet and still, organization not only emerges but is uncannily repeatable despite the plethora of insults hurled at biological systems by the world.  The nature of the implicit reliable code-to-structure/function transformation is one of the "big questions" in biology.  (The ever-popular "Are we alone?"  is another one -- next column over smiley.)

A muse on whither structure/function by Nobelist Paul Nurse  (pdflocal pdf) appears as a recent Nature "Horizons" article,  Life, Logic and Information.  The gist?   We need to better understand information flow in biological systems -- which is exactly the topic of the proposal, though we're quite a bit more literal! (pun intendedsmiley)

My partner in crime for this research is Saira Mian, a broadly knowledgeable computational biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.  Our hope for this work is that there are coding, channel, network and rate distortion theorems in there somewhere -- perhaps even transcending biological systems since at heart everything is a network of inter-communicating actors. 

9/1/2008: The proposal has been funded!  Here are the reviews (with which I very much agree in almost all aspects).  Thank you panelists whoever you are!  Your encouragement (and suggestions/warnings) are duly noted and greatly appreciated. We vacillate between exhilaration and professional terror -- not a bad thing!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

12/12/2009: Update -- a pivotal, but devilish problem is beating us about the head and face.  However, we sense it's tiring out. smiley

1/5/2010:  NY Times profile  of Mina Bissell and her work on the relationship between tissue architecture and cancer.  Mina's work is what captivated me a few years back.  Those genotypically malignant cells that stay quiet in normal tissue somehow know when they reside in a normal architecture and when they do not.  This is an important (and new) communication problem if ever there was one.

5/3/2010:  Mina Bissell elected to NAS!!!!  Stockholm next! smiley

7/29/2010:  Here's an animation of (one aspect of) the molecular communication problem courtesy of Ruochen Song.

10/16/2010:  Living things are so beautiful and precise that there must be a mathematics that describes them.  Information theory is that mathematicsTom Schneider, NIH

Publication Trickle

SJ Gates' Adinkras

The following "summary slide"  that ties together the above threads from biology to fundamental descriptions of the universe lies somewhere between profound and ludicrous, but it's so much fun I decided to post it here anyway:
Communications conquers the

Here's a fun talk I gave at ITA'13.  Post-talk comments make me think it's time to write a summary/tutorial paper to incite the roiling masses of  young communication theorists and reinvigorate (overthrow!) the technical status quo! smiley

Here's a crazy paper that was allowed to sneak into ISIT'16.
Here's the corresponding talk.

Sorta Standard Wireless Research

Interference Avoidance

Opportunistic Communications

Spectrum Server
(see also R. Yates' page)

Contentious Spectrum Management
Genetic Algorithms and Spectrum Sharing (DySpan'05)


I've been toying (since at least 2003 starting with an un-responded-to letter to William Safire of the NY Times and following up with an extremely weak talk I gave at Google  in 2006smiley) with the idea of doing research on the implications of the fact that soon, everything will be recorded and very little will be private. Think of Microsoft's My Life Bits but with the ability to share and search over the Internet. As a simple example of what's coming, the following candid photo was taken in Brazil at MWCN'01. I had no idea the photo existed until a Google search on my name turned it up (the site has since disappeared -- how fleeting fame! smiley ). However, imagine if zillions of these sorts of candid moments (including audio) could be uploaded wirelessly, correlated, indexed and searched by a Super-Google over the web. Assuming symmetry of access and information accountability (with the possibility of information hiding by loggers -- or e-chroniclers), I'm not sure that loss of public privacy is such a bad idea. But it does give one pause to think that every public (and many an ostensibly private) moment could be subject to public scrutiny. Nonetheless, I see this not as "Big Brother" but more as "Everything In The Light Of Day" a la Rodney King (and, obviously, others) where the watched can watch the watchers. Steve Mann at the University of Toronto has coined the rather neat term sousveillance for this sort of system (as opposed to SURveillance).

UPDATE Fall 2016:  Just discovered "Black Mirror" on Netflix.  See season 1 episode 3 smiley.  Perhaps even more interesting, see season 2 episode 1 and imagine a merge with the S1E3 storyline.

Public Service

I recently submitted an NSF proposal which was declined, but I thought the reviews were especially helpful. As it is with these things, we often feel the reviewer might possibly have missed the point (see comment about characterizing moving foliage on trees being infeasible -- I AGREE, but if so, that still tells you something about the channel estimation problem smiley ). However, objectively speaking, the reviewer might also be pointing out that I missed the point -- the practicality of the approach might be nil for most real-world systems -- but still offered helpful suggestions, I thought.

Anyone who wants to run with (or deride) the idea is welcome to do so. I'm thinking I'll post all proposals and subsequent reviews here as a public service (maybe particularly helpful to new faculty if only as an example of what not to do if you want to get funded smiley ).
How Well Can We Know a MIMO Channel?
Reviews of bounced proposal


Here's one of my FAVORITE Nova segments on an ex-M.I.T. engineer named James McLurkin when he was a "kid".    Yes, an engineer can truly have it all!
Nature Magazine Cover Story
Cosmic Communications

et might write nature cover Chris Rose

Caroline Angelo's cartoon

et cannon
                    Chris Rose Nature Paper

National Science Foundation Discoveries Chris Rose
                      Nature paper at NSF Discoveries

Breakthrough Discuss'16
(my talk)

Lunar Library '19
(my sidebar)

Press Coverage

nytimes bannerscientific american banner bbc bannernpr banner
cnn logostar ledger

Project OZMA at 50 Workshop

Stephen Webb Fermi Paradoxb
We clock in as reason #35 in this latest edition of the book!

Science Fiction
Michael Crichton weighs in via The Andromeda Strainsmiley
(pp. 222-225, courtesy, Rich Howard)

Radio Astronomy

National Radio Astronomy Observatory
(facebook link)

NRAO Ozma at 50 Workshop

The SETI Institute

Undergraduate Projects

Mount a cheap directional antenna to a mobile platform, add ultrasonic sensors and student ingenuity and what to you get?  Pure design delight!  Here's the project report.   Check it out in action on YouTube!



Protocol for Student Paper Draft Submissions 

Spectrum Policy Outreach: 

FCC Technological Advisory Council Meeting Talk (09/18/2002) (PDF)  (PS) 

FCC TAC Meeting Archival Summary 

Achieving Innovative and Reliable Services in Unlicensed Spectrum. A National Science Foundation collaboration with the Quello Center at Michigan State
Cognitive Radio talk (5/18/2005)

Special Treat
A must-read memoir by
WINLAB's own Dick Frenkiel,
"Father of Cellular and Cordless"
National Medal of Technology (1994 Winner)

Cellular Dreams and Cordless Nightmares:
life at Bell Laboratories in interesting times

Talks & Papers

Assorted Talk Slides from the Dimacs Seminar Series on Computational Information Theory

RFID Overview by Gregory Wright

Random Journal Papers


Bragging About Family and Friends

My sister, Tricia Rose, the academic star now at Brown University as the Chancellor's Professor of Africana Studies, and popular culture maven (Google Search). Here's Tricia's wikipedia page.

Stephanie Bell-Rose:   founding President (1999-2009) of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and the second ever Black woman Goldman Sachs Managing Director.  Now a Senior Managing Director at TIAA-CREF and Head of the TIAA-CREF Institute (Google Search).  She's also rather connected, according to Crain's New York Business.

My Son, Evan Rose, tried to become "The Future of Night Life" with his startup  Nite-Fly.  He found that nightlife providers are a scary bunch -- most such businesses fail within a year or so, so they're not exactly forward looking. He (and we -- looking to retire early smiley ) are much more hopeful about Evan's current business. He's essentially seeking to become a hitech headhunter who provides various companies with what they need -- smart employees. In the process he's become a rather good web developer! Check out e-cruit and this recent Huffington Post profile on entrepreneurs (he's #15 smiley ).

Former student, Randal Pinkett, founder of BCT Partners and the Donald Trump Season 4 Apprentice (Google Search) was absolutely spectacular as an undergraduate in our department -- I remember him most for never letting us see him sweat -- even when I made up an exam just for him (though I gave the exam to the whole class smiley ). So, he's always been preternaturally graceful under pressure. Randal went on to an even more spectacular academic career (Rhodes Scholar, MBA and Ph.D. from M.I.T.) and was clearly the best candidate The Apprentice had ever seen. In fact, I found it puzzling how much hand wringing was done over which of the two final candidates to hire -- there really was no other choice. Perhaps they manufactured a bit of theater? smiley Here's Randal's wikipedia page.

My "Big Brother"  S. James Gates, Jr., the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics and Affiliate Professor of Mathematics at Brown University, sat on President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST for short). In December  2012 he was named as a National Medal of Science winner.    Jim was actually a "big brother" (and a legend) for close to a generation of students who came through MIT in the '70s and early '80s.  (Shirley Jackson -- current president of RPI -- is another MIT legend who's been appointed to the PCAST as well).  Jim is an amateur Einstein historian who focuses on Einstein's stance on human rights.  Jim also has ideas on diversity in the STEM fields, espoused in a talk given at Rutgers in February 2011.  Want more information?  Both Jim and Shirley have Wikipedia pages.

My "Brother" Emery Brown is a big deal professor in the Harvard/MIT program in Cambridge. We were antipodal undergrads (Emery was a Harvard brat while I was an MIT gnerd) and graduate students together.  We also vied for lifer status (Emery won that one smiley). His area is anesthesiology as this delightful New York Times Profile shows. However, what many do not realize is that Emery's main research passion is something that knocks directly on the door of one of the biggest Big Questions there is: what is consciousness? Emery's experimental work considers how mental state relates to measurable electrical phenomena in the brain -- of rats, so there's no need to go out and buy helmets and tin foil hats ... yet. And as you might have already guessed, Em has a wikipedia page.

My "Little Brother"  Todd Coleman is a Professor at UCSD in Bioengineering after successfully luring him from the corn (UIUC).   He is a true academic star and not only scary smart, but scary driven and scary savvy.  Here's a nice  profile of Todd. His area is information theory applied to biological (mostly electrical) signals.  Whether he wins a Nobel or creates a business empire only time will tell.   Here's a recent Science paper of his that caused somewhat of a rage in non-invasive bioelectrical signal sensing.   I'm delightedly proud (and somewhat in awe) of Todd.

My other "Little Brother" John Asher Johnson is pretty fantastic too.  He's one of those planet hunting astrophysicists and was recently plucked from Cal Tech as a 3-year-in assistant professor into a tenured full professorship at Harvard.  In addition, Harvard is supporting his push to develop an astrophysics institute, aimed at developing a pipeline of URM astrophysicists. And yeah, he has a wikipedia page too, even at his tender young age. smiley

The Stephen C. Rose Legacy Fund

Out of This World (prize-winning, believe it or not!) Picture

by Nick Romanenko of Rutgers

second place UPAA portraits:
Updated:  July 1st, 2020
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Katherine Johnson