Walid Saad has been recognized as one of the most cited researchers in the world. 

A professor of electrical and computer engineering, Saad was one of six Virginia Tech researchers recently named to Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list. A global company that maintains the Web of Science, Clarivate compiles an annual list of researchers who demonstrated significant influence through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade.

Citations — other scientists referencing a researcher’s findings in their own academic papers — are not only an acknowledgment of excellent work, but an indicator the work is playing a significant role in moving the researcher’s field forward. This group of highly cited researchers represents about 1 in 1,000 of the world's scientists and social scientists in the world, according to Clarivate.

Along with Saad, Virginia Tech’s Wenjing Lou, Linsey Marr, Lina Quan, Kwok Tsui, and Zheng "Phil" Xiang were also among the 7,127 researchers from 68 countries and regions recognized this year. 

About Saad

In the researcher’s words

What does it mean to you to be among the most highly cited researchers?

My inclusion in the highly cited researchers list is a great privilege because it concretely underscores the influence of our contributions within the research community. Discovering that our work inspires and contributes significantly to the advancement of global scientific knowledge holds profound value for me.

What do you most want people to know about your research?

I wish to highlight that our research on wireless technologies and artificial intelligence significantly influences the everyday devices people use, ranging from smartphones and smart watches to virtual reality systems and personal drones.

What work on the horizon most excites you?

We are currently at a pivotal moment in wireless research, rapidly approaching the fundamental physical limits of communication systems. Consequently, traditional methods aimed at enhancing wireless system performance – such as expanding spectrum usage or making incremental improvements to technologies like massive multiple-input multiple-output — are proving unsustainable. This holds particularly true with the advent of new wireless applications like the metaverse. To overcome this challenge, we envision a true revolution in wireless technologies built on the premise of creating systems capable of human-like cognition: reasoning, planning, and applying “common sense” where necessary. This concept of a “conscious” or “alive” network will be the crux of our upcoming work, a pursuit that fills me with excitement. We will specifically show how a fusion of artificial general intelligence (AGI), digital twins, and wireless technologies can help future wireless systems break free from the constraints of traditional physics. This endeavor will push the boundaries of both AGI and wireless research, thereby ushering in a new era of wireless technologies, no longer confined by the limitations of conventional cellular network generations.

What motivates you to keep moving forward?

Two key factors serve as my main motivators: The thrill that comes with new research discoveries, and the daily privilege of working with some of the brightest minds in the field, particularly students and collaborators. 

Who is your favorite fictional scientist?

One of the most enduring fictional scientists for me is Spock from "Star Trek: The Original Series." His portrayal as a Vulcan, relying solely on rationality and logic in scientific pursuits while disregarding superficial pleasantries, resonates with me. My close second has to be Jadzia Dax from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Her remarkable breadth and depth of knowledge — accumulated over multiple lives — is matched only by her humility and ability to maintain a sense of humor, even when confronted with daunting challenges and stressful situations.

What advice would you give to new research faculty?

As a young scientist, don’t be intimidated by your research “heroes,” especially when you have divergent views on a certain research path or topic.

New research faculty frequently overlook the fact that, beyond core research competencies, they must master time management. As a young faculty, you have to juggle numerous concurrent tasks, and mastering how to optimize the use of your time while maintaining a healthy work-life balance becomes crucial. 

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