Ari Willner

Ari Willner hails from Los Angeles, California. He attended Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA) for high school, and he began attempting research in the summer his junior year in the Optical Communications Laboratory at the University of Southern California.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Peicheng Liao, Ari participated in a project that studied 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. Ari’s project used 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. The approach used an optical tapped-delay-line that uniquely exploited the available spectrum. Only two complex optical stages were 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.

Ari was honored to be recognized as a Davidson Fellow, one in 20 awardees, and as a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar, one of 200 awardees. He also had the opportunity to present his research at the IEEE Photonics Conference’s post-deadline session in Reston, Virginia to over 100 technical attendees. Additionally, in the summer after senior year, Ari participated in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy at City of Hope, where he studied in the super-resolution microscopy lab under the mentorship of Dr. Kathleen Lennon.

Since high school, Ari spent two gap years studying in Yeshivat Shaalvim, a religious seminary in Israel. Besides academics, Ari loves playing violin, and he had the opportunity to play with the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra in Austria, Italy, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Ari is also an avid The Office fan and religiously haunts to attempt the latest trivia quiz.