Posted by Rob Knies

Henrique Malvar One of the singular advantages of working for Microsoft—and for Microsoft Research, in particular—is the opportunity to work on products and technologies that have a positive influence on multitudes worldwide.

Henrique Malvar, Microsoft distinguished engineer and chief scientist at Microsoft Research, knows that all too well—as do his peers. On Feb. 9, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced that Malvar had been elected as a member of that prestigious group.

“Being a member of the National Academy of Engineering is the pinnacle of awards for an engineer,” said Malvar, 54, a native of Rio de Janeiro. “It’s the strongest recognition a person in any area of engineering can receive for a career of contributions. I’m very much honored by this.”

The citation that accompanied Malvar’s election referred to his “contributions to multiresolution signal processing and multimedia signal compression and standards.” He took a moment to translate.

“To put it in simple terms,” he explained, “if you use Lync or Skype or if you watch video on the Internet, you will be using technologies I had my fingers on. The same is true with the future way we’re going to do images on the Internet. It’s very exciting to know that literally billions of people are using these technologies.”

In fact, Malvar, who previously served as managing director of Microsoft Research Redmond, founded the Signal Processing group upon joining Microsoft Research following a career in academia and industry. He has a long list of contributions during his Microsoft career, including co-development of Windows Media Audio and a variety of image and data-compression technologies for various Microsoft products. He recalls those achievements fondly.

“Lots and lots of fun memories of working on those,” he smiles. “I really enjoy that I’ve been very lucky to have been able to work with great people to design together a bunch of new, interesting technologies.”

Is Malvar, who also serves as an affiliate professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, still able to pursue his research interests?

“Very much so,” he responds. “In fact, the latest image-format technology, called JPEG XR, the new version of JPEG, is already in many of our products. It’s supported in Windows and Internet Explorer and also in products from many other companies, and it will bring to users many more flexible ways to deal with pictures.”

In the NAE press release announcing its new members, the organization referred to their “pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

How does it feel to hear words like that applied to you?

“It’s humbling to be in the company of such distinguished people,” Malvar says, “including many from Microsoft. I’ve spent my career—which hasn’t ended yet!—on this, so it’s very good to see it recognized, not only by my peers and such an important institution as NAE, but even more important is to know that those technologies are improving the lives of so many people.”