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Toby Berger

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Biography

A professor in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Dr. Toby Berger is noted for his acute foresight in identifying important research directions and topics for his students that give them a head start in their careers.

During a 37-year career in the electrical and computer engineering department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Dr. Berger introduced and taught graduate courses on information theory and communications networks. His course on biological information theory, which bridged classic information theory with the brain’s cognitive elements, was the first ever offered at a university for regular credit. The course was the centerpiece of his efforts to launch the interdisciplinary merger of information theory and biology.

He has a reputation as an excellent supervisor noted for guiding and training graduate engineering students. Besides being the primary advisor for more than 152 graduate masters and doctoral level students, he has served as a special committee member for nearly 100 other graduate students in electrical and computer engineering, applied mathematics, statistics, operations research, computer science and geology.

He was one of the first Western science educators to receive a fellowship from China’s Ministry of Education to give lectures on information theory in China. These lectures ultimately drew top Chinese students to the West for further study.

Dr. Berger has authored several books, including “Rate Distortion Theory: A Mathematical Basis for Data Compression”, the seminal text on rate distortion theory that has helped shaped the direction of that branch of information theory research for more than 30 years. Known for emphasizing good writing skills, he has coauthored more than 60 journal articles and 250 conference papers with students, enhancing their research and writing abilities in the process.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Berger is a past president of the IEEE Information Theory Society (ITS) and served as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. He has received the ITS Claude E. Shannon Award and also the Frederick E. Terman Award of the American Society of Engineering Education.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, both in applied mathematics.

Interview