The Simons Foundation has appointed Salil Vadhan, Vicky Joseph Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), a Simons Investigator.
The award offers an appointment of five years with a grant of $100,000 for research support per year, with the possibility of renewal for five additional years. A distinguished panel of computer scientists chose Vadhan for the award after a careful nomination and vetting process. The award is a recognition of the promise of his research.
Vadhan studies topics at the interface of computational complexity and cryptography. The goal of his research is to understand the limits of efficient computation and to use this understanding to design systems that withstand adversarial behavior. Major areas of focus include pseudorandomness and zero-knowledge proofs—proofs that reveal no information beyond the validity of the proof itself.
He also studies data privacy and is working to develop new algorithms that allow social scientists to interrogate large data sets while preserving the personal information they contain. Using a concept called differential privacy, for example, Vadhan hopes to develop systems that add a calculated amount of "noise" to query results so that researchers could obtain statistically useful information but not identify anonymous subjects. Vadhan and colleagues at Harvard recently received a major grant from the National Science Foundation to pursue a related project.
A graduate of Harvard College, Vadhan received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science in 1995. He then earned a certificate of advanced study in mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999.
His past awards include the SIAM Outstanding Paper Prize (2011), the 2009 Gödel Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Miller Visiting Professorship at UC Berkeley, the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and an ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award.
As a Simons Investigator, Vadhan will attend the foundation's annual meetings, where he will present his research and interact with other investigators.