Vaikuntanathan wins Godel prize for homomorphic encryption research

Vinod Vaikuntanathan (photo credit: Lillie Paquette).

MIT EECS professor and CSAIL principal investigator Vinod Vaikuntanathan, alongside collaborators, has been awarded the Godel prize for two papers on homomorphic encryption. The papers were highlighted for “transformative contributions to cryptography by constructing efficient fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) schemes. 

This type of scheme enables a host of applications that lets us “securely outsource expensive computations to untrusted servers, and securely perform collaborative computations among multiple entities.” 

The prize is given annually to outstanding papers in theoretical computer science – and Vaikuntanathan and his colleagues specifically have been noted for their “enormous impact on both theoretical and applied research.” 

Rivest, Adleman, and Dertouzos cooked up the idea for homomorphic encryption – then called “privacy homomorphisms” – in 1978. 

Vaikuntanathan is a professor of EECS at MIT and the chief cryptographer at Duality Technologies. The co-inventor of most modern fully homomorphic encryption systems and many other lattice-based (and post-quantum secure) cryptographic primitives, Vaikuntanathan’s work has been recognized with a George M. Sprowls PhD thesis award, an IBM Josef Raviv Fellowship, a Sloan Faculty Fellowship, a Microsoft Faculty Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, a DARPA Young Faculty Award, a Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Award, and an IEEE FOCS Test of Time Award. Vaikuntanathan earned his SM and PhD degrees from MIT, and a BTech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

The Gödel Prize is an annual prize for outstanding papers in theoretical computer science, given jointly by European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS) and the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computational Theory (ACM SIGACT). The namesake of the award, Kurt Gödel, is an homage to his 1956 letter to John von Neumann where he asked whether a certain “NP-complete problem could be solved in quadratic or linear time.”

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