Andrea Goldsmith created technical innovations including adaptive beamforming for multi-antenna Wi-Fi. Her work has shaped the performance of wireless networking and enabled fast, reliable wireless service around the world.
Born in 1964, Goldsmith grew up in Los Angeles. “I got a very creative way of thinking from my mom, and an engineering side of thinking from my dad,” she said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. Goldsmith’s father, a Holocaust survivor, not only showed her the power of resilience, but also gave her valuable advice. He recommended she start college as an engineering major and be open to exploring other fields.
“You don't need to follow a straight and narrow path for your ultimate destination,” Goldsmith said. She began taking junior college courses while in high school, which she describes as “an amazing resource for students.” At age 17, she left school with her GED to travel through Europe. She spent much of what would have been her senior year in Greece. “Seeing my own country and culture through the eyes of others was transformative,” she shared.
Upon returning from Europe she applied her father’s advice and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. It was here that she became “captivated by the application of math and science to solve interesting problems [and] create technologies that impact people.”
She received her bachelor’s degree in engineering mathematics in 1986, and her master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering in 1991 and 1994, respectively. During her studies, she worked for a defense communications startup and focused on wireless communication, “envisioning how this technology could change the world.”
Following her doctorate, Goldsmith began teaching at the California Institute of Technology, then joined the electrical engineering faculty at Stanford University in 1999. Among the most prolific researchers in wireless communications, she discovered adaptive modulation techniques allowing network designers to align the speed at which data is sent with the speed a channel can support while network conditions and channel quality fluctuate. Her innovations have reduced network disruptions, provided the foundation for Internet of Things applications, and enabled the fast Wi-Fi people now rely on for working, shopping, communication and entertainment.
In 2005, Goldsmith co-founded Quantenna Communications Inc. to enable video distribution through the home over Wi-Fi. “Nobody believed it was possible at the time,” she said. “That's what made Quantenna successful.” In 2010, she co-founded Plume Design Inc.
Through her groundbreaking research and entrepreneurial efforts, Goldsmith has influenced virtually all cellular and Wi-Fi networks worldwide. She has 38 U.S. patents and has been the dean of engineering and applied science at Princeton University since 2020.
Among her many honors, Goldsmith was awarded the 2020 Marconi Prize for her “pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of adaptive wireless communications.” Recognizing that engineering excellence requires a diversity of ideas and perspectives, Goldsmith also founded and chaired the IEEE Board of Directors Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, leading efforts to improve the culture and climate in the IEEE and the profession to ensure that all engineers can achieve their full potential. “I've always been passionate about what you can accomplish by starting your own new thing, whether it's in technology or starting a committee on diversity and inclusion,” she shared.
For Goldsmith, “technology to benefit humanity” remains a primary focus. “That's why I became an engineer – to design technology that makes the world a better place.”