Dr. Tingjun Chen MS’15 PhD’20 Receives Morton B. Friedman Memorial Prize for Excellence

May 11, 2021

Tingjun Chen (MS’15 PhD’20), an electrical engineer who contributed to groundbreaking research in next-generation wireless networks and Internet-of-Things (IoT) systems while earning his masters and doctorate from Columbia Engineering, received the School’s Morton B. Friedman Memorial Prize for Excellence at Class Day April 29, 2021.

Named after the beloved professor and senior vice dean who was an integral part of Columbia Engineering for nearly 60 years, this year’s prize is awarded to a student at Columbia Engineering who graduated during the 2020-21 school year and best exhibits Dean Friedman’s characteristics of academic excellence, visionary leadership, and outstanding promise for the future.

Originally from Shenzhen, China, Chen received his undergraduate degree in electronic engineering from Tsinghua University. After joining the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University in 2014, he worked with his PhD advisor, Professor Gil Zussman, and made significant contributions to the interdisciplinary FlexICoN and EnHANTs projects as the leading student. He has also been playing a key role in the design and deployment of the NSF PAWR COSMOS testbed – an open-access outdoor laboratory currently being deployed in West Harlem, NYC, which will allow researchers to test entirely new classes of wireless technologies and applications in a real dense urban setting. Based on his contributions to the COSMOS testbed, Chen was a featured Columbia Engineering PhD candidate in 2020

“I am always fascinated with the wireless revolutions that have enabled many exciting applications that we use in our everyday life,” he said, “I was very fortunate to work with a number of experts across many different but interconnected areas here in New York City, which perhaps has the most complex environment that is perfect for testing how our developed emerging wireless technologies would operate in a real-world setting”.

During his six years at Columbia, Chen received the Facebook Fellowship, the Wei Family Private Foundation Fellowship, and the Columbia Engineering Oscar and Verna Byron Fellowship. He also received the Eli Jury Award, the Edwin Howard Armstrong Memorial Award, and the Jacob Millman Award (outstanding teaching assistant), all from the electrical engineering department. During 2016–2020, he served as a student ambassador of the electrical engineering department and helped support prospective and current students in the department’s master’s program.

In addition to academic research and departmental services, Tingjun has been strongly committed to promoting diversity and has organized numerous outreach activities to the local Harlem community in which over 90% of the K-12 student population is from minorities that are underrepresented in STEM-related fields. These activities included demos and presentations in the Manhattan Center for Science and Math, The School at Columbia, Columbia University Girls Science Day, as well as several collaborative activities with Silicon Harlem.

Tingjun demonstrating the principles of wireless communications using a walkie-talkie at the Columbia Girls’ Science Day

Now a postdoctoral associate at Yale University, Chen is currently working on further pushing the frontier of next-generation wireless networks and IoT systems by advancing both hardware and software as well as incorporating advanced computing and machine learning (ML) techniques. In Fall 2021, he will join the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Duke University as an Assistant Professor.

“During my graduate studies at Columbia, I have gained solid foundations in both theoretical and experimental research which, in turn, have gradually shaped me as an independent researcher,” he said. “I hope that I will be able to pass this spirit on to the next generation of young professionals through a series of education, research, and outreach activities.”

Friedman, who founded the Division of Mathematical Methods, the precursor to the applied mathematics component of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, was longtime chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and of the University Senate Executive Committee. A 1978 recipient of the University’s Great Teacher Award, he served as associate dean, vice dean, and senior vice dean and helped shape the School over the course of six decades.