The puzzle Daubechies solved was how to take a recent step forward in wavelets – a wonderful thing, by French mathematicians Yves Meyer and Stéphane Mallat, but technically impractical – and do make it applicable. Daubechies would say “put it on your head”, but don’t make it ugly. As she says in the Guggenheim statement: “It is something that mathematicians often take for granted, that a mathematical framework can be really elegant and beautiful, but to use it in an application really, you have to undercut it: Well, they shrug, That’s life – applied math is always a little dirty. I did not agree with this view. “
By February 1987, she had built the foundation for what had grown into a “family” of wavelets Daubechies, each suited to a slightly different mission. A key factor in her breakthrough: For the first time in her career, she had a computer terminal at her desk, so she could easily program equations and plot results. fruit. That summer, Daubechies wrote an article and, bypassing the hiring freeze, secured a job at AT&T Bell Labs. She started in July and moved into a house recently purchased with Calderbank, whom she married after questioning last fall. (Calderbank indicated that there was a permanent offer, but he declined the proposal out of respect for Daubechies’ stated objections to the institution of marriage.)
The ceremony took place in May in Brussels. Daubechies cooked the entire wedding dinner (with the help of her fiancé), an Anglo-Belgian chicken feast with Lancashire stew and hotpot, chocolate cake and snacks (amongst the dishes). other offerings) for 90 guests. She thought 10 days of cooking and baking would be manageable, only to later realize she didn’t have enough pots and pans to prepare nor fridge space to store, not to mention the challenges. about other logistics. Her algorithmic solution is as follows: Lend your friends the necessary vases; fill the aforementioned jars and transfer them back for safekeeping in their refrigerator and for transportation to the wedding. She encourages more gourmet guests to bring appetizers instead of gifts. Her mother, putting her feet down, bought an army of salt and pepper.
Daubechies continued her Researching wavelets at AT&T Bell Labs, paused in 1988 to give birth. It was a worrying and disorienting period, as she lost her ability to do research-level math for a few months after giving birth. “Mathematical ideas won’t come,” she said. That scared her. She didn’t tell anyone, not even her husband, until gradually her creative impulse returned. She has sometimes warned younger female mathematicians about the baby brain effect, and they are grateful for the tip. Lillian Pierce, a colleague at Duke, said: “I couldn’t imagine that I would have trouble thinking. But as it happened, Pierce reminded himself: “OK, this is what Ingrid is talking about. It will pass.” Daubechies’ schoolgirls also mention their gratitude for her willingness to promote childcare at conferences, and even sometimes take on babysitting duties herself. “My mentor volunteers to keep my kids entertained while I give a presentation,” said a former Ph. student, Yale mathematician Anna Gilbert, recalls. “She seamlessly covers all aspects of work and life.”
In 1993, Daubechies was appointed to the faculty at Princeton, the first woman to become a full professor in the department of mathematics. She was intrigued by the prospect of interacting with historians and sociologists and their friends, not just electrical engineers and mathematicians. She designed a course called “Math Alive” aimed at non-scientific and non-scientific majors, and organized public talks on “Surfing with Wavelets: A New Approach” for audio and visual analysis”. Wavelets are taking off in the real world, deployed by the FBI in digitizing its fingerprint database. A wavelet-inspired algorithm has been used in the animation of movies like “The Life of a Bug”.
Terence Tao, a mathematician at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “The Daubechies wavelets are smooth, balanced, not overly spread, and easy to implement on a computer. He was a Princeton graduate in the 1990s and has taken courses from Daubechies. (He won a Fields medal in 2006.) Daubechies wavelets, he says, can be used “effectively” for many signal processing problems. In the classroom, Tao recalls, Daubechies had a knack for viewing pure math (for the sake of curiosity), applied math (for practical purposes), and experiencing physics as a whole. “I remember, for example, once when she described learning about how the inner ear works and realized that it was more or less like a wavelet transform, which I think led to her suggesting the use of a wavelet transform. using wavelets in speech recognition. Daubechies wavelet has propelled the field into the digital era. In part, wavelets have proven revolutionary because they are so mathematically deep. But mostly, as Calderbank notes, it’s because Daubechies, a tireless community builder, has made it his mission to build a network of bridges with other sectors.
Naturally, the awards began to pile up: MacArthur in 1992 was followed by the American Mathematical Association Steele Prize for Exposition in 1994 for her book “Ten Lectures on Wavelets”. In 2000 Daubechies became the first woman to receive the National Academy of Sciences award for mathematics. She was raising two young children at the time. (Her daughter, Carolyn, 30, is a data scientist; her son, Michael, 33, is a high school math teacher on Chicago’s South Side.) And by all appearances, she’s smart. juggling it all.