Dina Katabi is renowned for her innovative research in the field of wireless networks. Her pioneering work at the intersection of computer science and electrical engineering has improved the speed, reliability, and security of data exchange in WiFi and cellular systems. She has also made significant contributions to the field of wireless sensing in medicine which have the potential for revolutionary impact, helping patients receive more accurate and timely treatment through non-invasive health monitoring and disease diagnosis.
Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Dina Katabi came from a family of doctors and was initially set to follow in their footsteps. However, after enrolling in college, she discovered a passion for computer science and the possibilities it held for creating innovative systems that combined medicine and technology. Katabi went on to earn her bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Damascus University in 1995, followed by an MS in computer science and a PhD in computer systems networking and telecommunications from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999 and 2003, respectively.
Today, Dina Katabi is the inaugural Thuan and Nicole Pham Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, she serves as director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing and leads the Networks at MIT group (NETMIT). She is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Katabi's unique approach to wireless networks bridges disciplines, encompassing everything from the signal to the application. Her research has led to solutions for a range of networking issues, including protocols, minimizing congestion in high-bandwidth networks, and algorithms for spectrum analysis.
In her early work, Katabi came up with novel ways to prevent congestion in wireless networks, making things like WiFi and cellular service faster and more efficient. To overcome the problem of interference—signals competing for the same pathway—she embraced it, developing a way to mix together signals from different sources and decode them on the receiving end. Later in her career, Katabi turned her focus from how wireless signals carry data to using wireless signals for extracting information from the way they bounce off people's bodies. In 2016, Katabi co-founded Emerald Innovations, an MIT spin-off focused on non-invasive health monitoring. Katabi and her team developed the world's first WiFi-like box that analyzes surrounding radio signals using neural networks to infer people's movements, breathing, heart rate, falls, sleep apnea, and sleep stages - all in a touchless manner without requiring users to wear any sensors. Emerald provides continuous health data and predictive analyses to doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Katabi and her team of researchers at MIT have also developed an artificial intelligence system that can diagnose Parkinson's disease and assess its severity by examining a patient's nightly breathing patterns.
Dina Katabi has received numerous accolades throughout her career. She is a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “Genius Grant," which recognizes individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits. Katabi has also been awarded the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Prize in Computing, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, two SIGCOMM Test of Time Awards, the Faculty Research Innovation Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, the NBX Career Development chair, and the NSF CAREER award. Her students have also received the ACM Best Doctoral Dissertation Award in Computer Science and Engineering twice, a testament to her outstanding mentorship. Finally, several start-ups, including PiCharging and Emerald, have spun out of Katabi's lab, demonstrating the practical impact of her research on industry and society.
With her pioneering work, Katabi has cemented her place as a leading figure in the field of computer science and an inspiration to future generations of researchers and scientists.