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Haitao Zheng, an assistant professor of Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara, has been named one of the nation’s top 35 innovators under age 35 by MIT’s Technology Review magazine. The magazine recognized Haitao, 30, and other chemists, biologists, software engineers, and chip designers for gravitating to “the most interesting and difficult scientific and engineering problems at hand, and arrive at solutions no one had imagined. They take on big issues.”

The annual recognition, which in the past had named 100 young scientists, is intended by the magazine’s editors to identify outstanding inventors, discoverers, and entrepreneurs whose “achievements will shape the world we live in for decades to come.” The recognition also highlights what’s hot in emerging technology. A panel of 19 leading scientists selected this year’s top 35 innovators.

At 15, Haitao Zheng stood out at China’s competitive Xian Jiaotong University for both her youth and her brilliance. She received her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park in 1999, at age of 24, and conducted research in wireless and networking area at Bell-Labs (NJ, U.S.A) and Microsoft Research Asia (Beijing, P. R. China) during 1999-2005. She became an assistant professor in computer science at UCSB in Sept. 2005.

“Her work on so-called cognitive radios stands out for its potential to make a promising technology practical. Using software, cognitive radios dynamically detect and exploit unused radio frequencies; the devices could alleviate competition for the ever shrinking amount of unassigned radio spectrum. To be truly useful, though, a cognitive radio must not only detect free spectrum but also select the best frequency for a given function, all without interfering with other devices. She created algorithms that allow disparate devices to “negotiate,” automatically allocating the available spectrum efficiently and fairly.” She is now continuing her research in this fascinating field at UCSB.