White Plains resident Jessie Rosenberg earned her PhD in Applied Physics from California Institute of Technology at the age of 23. Yes, that means she started college at age 13. Today, this child prodigy is helping revolutionize the world of data, inventing with her team the next generation of technologies to transmit data, possibly up to hundreds of times faster than today.
Rosenberg, a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, taught herself to read at three and has maintained an insatiable appetite for information ever since. In elementary school in Northern Virginia, she was the third-grader who, outside of class, was desperately trying to convey the brilliance of the Pythagorean Theorem to her peers. By sixth grade, she was engineering bridges out of pasta. Around the same time, she took an interest in medicine, soaking up graduate-level medical textbooks for leisure. But ultimately, it was physics that proved worthy or her intellect, so, at 13, Rosenberg skipped high school and enrolled in a program for exceptionally gifted students at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. She transferred to Bryn Mawr College a year later and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Physics, immediately followed by a PhD from Caltech focusing on Optics.
That’s why today, at 26, Rosenberg is an integral part of a research team at IBM that’s pioneering the next generation of optical interconnect, which employs fiber-optic cables to transmit data between computers (using light signals, as opposed to the current electric-signal-through-copper-wire setup). Rosenberg’s team has produced the first device of its kind that integrates “optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip,” according to a recent IBM press release. The wording may be confusing, but the implications are huge. “This is the technology on everybody’s roadmap,” Rosenberg says. “It’s what’s necessary for high-performance computing.” Think data transfers of 25 Gbps—more than 1,400 times faster than the fastest 4G download.
And, according to cnet.com, while other companies, like Intel, produce similar technologies, no one else has integrated optical and electrical transmission components on one silicon chip smaller than 100 nanometers. Chips that size meet conventional chip-manufacturing standards, allowing for large-scale production.
So, in the not-too-distant future when the “Cloud” will likely rule all, think of Rosenberg, and be happy she didn’t go the way of bridge building.