Space communicator

Image credit: Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation

In February, Solomon Golomb, A&S '51, received the prestigious National Medal of Science for his landmark contributions to engineering and mathematics. It's the latest achievement in his extraordinary career in the communications technology field, which barely existed when he began working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1950s. Golomb's work is highly abstract but has practical applications; his mathematical coding schemes, for instance, are responsible for the clarity of the images captured by the Mars rover Curiosity, enabling huge amounts of data to be compressed and transmitted to Earth without losing information. "When I'm happiest as an engineer is when things I've worked on get used widely," he says. As University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics at the University of Southern California, his home for more than 50 years, Golomb stays busy with teaching and research—but he still finds time to stump Johns Hopkins Magazine readers with his Golomb's Gambits column, which he's been contributing to the magazine for nearly 30 years.