Daskalakis wins ACM Dissertation Award for novel complex behavior analysis

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June 23, 2009

Incoming EECS faculty member Kostantinos (Costis) Daskalakis, who will be a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), was nominated for the 2008 Doctoral Dissertation Award by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) last month. He will receive the Doctoral Dissertation Award and its $20,000 prize at the annual ACM Awards Banquet on June 27, in San Diego, CA. Financial sponsorship of this award is provided by Google Inc.

As announced in the May 14, 2009 press release by the ACM, Daskalakis was cited in his nomination by the University of California, Berkely, for "advancing our understanding of behavior in complex networks of interacting individuals, such as those enabled and created by the Internet." His dissertation, entitled “The Complexity of Nash Equilibria,” provides a novel, algorithmic perspective on Game Theory and the concept of the Nash equilibrium.

Daskalakis’s dissertation examines whether rational, self-interested individuals can arrive, through their interactions, at a state where no single one of them would be better off switching strategies unless others did so as well. Such a state is called a Nash equilibrium, in honor of John Nash, who defined it, and is traditionally used in Game Theory as a rigorous way of predicting the behavior of people in conflict situations. Daskalakis showed that in complex systems the Nash equilibrium is computationally unachievable in some cases. This result answers an algorithmic question that has been open since John Nash’s definition of the concept in the 1950s. It also suggests that the Nash equilibrium may not be an accurate prediction of behavior in all situations. Daskalakis’s research emphasizes the need for new, computationally meaningful methods for modeling strategic behavior in complex systems such as those encountered in financial markets, online systems, and social networks.

Daskalakis grew up in Athens, Greece, where he received an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering from the National Technical University of Athens. In 2004 he moved to California where he completed his Ph.D. studies in computer science at U. C. Berkeley under the supervision of Professor Christos H. Papadimitriou. For the past year, Daskalakis has been a postdoctoral researcher in Microsoft Research-New England.

As stated in his CSAIL website, Costis is interested in Algorithmic Game Theory and Applied Probability, particularly in computational aspects of markets and the Internet, in social networks, and in computational problems in Biology. His research is motivated by two questions: "how does the algorithmic perspective influence Economics, Biology, Physics, and the Social Sciences?" and "how does the study of computational problems arising from areas outside Computer Science transform the Theory of Computation?"

Congratulations Costis!