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ACM Committee on Women Honors Cryptographic Researcher with Athena Lecturer Award

Goldwasser Wins Athena Award for Research that Advanced Secure Internet Transactions

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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New York, April 1, 2008 – The Association for Computing Machinery’s Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W) has named Shafi Goldwasser of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science as the 2008-2009 Athena Lecturer for her outstanding research contributions to cryptography, complexity theory, and number theory. Goldwasser is the co-inventor of zero-knowledge proofs, a key tool in the design of cryptographic protocols. Her work on interactive and zero-knowledge proofs provides the underpinnings for secure transmission of information over the Internet. The award, which celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science, includes a $10,000 honorarium, which is provided by Google Inc.

Goldwasser’s research on zero-knowledge proofs, with Silvio Micali and Charles Rackoff, allows for proving the possession of a particular property or piece of information without revealing the information – for example, the possession of a valid credit card without giving out the information on the credit card. Her work on “probabilistic encryption” with Micali shows how to use randomness to define and achieve semantic security, the current gold standard of privacy for modern encryption schemes. In collaboration with Joe Kilian, she developed the first probabilistic primality test based on the theory of elliptic curves. This test produces an algorithm that is used to find certified large prime numbers.

In the area of complexity theory, Goldwasser’s work with Uriel Feige, Laslo Lovasz, Shmuel Safra, and Mario Szegedi showed the difficulty of approximating the size of the largest clique in a graph, a problem that seeks to find the best solution from all feasible solutions. This effort launched the modern approach to showing how hard it is to even approximate the solution of NP-complete problems, a classic challenge in computational complexity theory. Her work with Oded Goldreich and Dana Ron on graph property testing initiated the property testing of combinatorial objects and made the process highly efficient

The RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, Goldwasser is the first person to hold this distinguished chair. She leads the cryptography and information security group at MIT, and is a member of the complexity theory group at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She is also a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Goldwasser received the Gödel Prize, presented by the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computational Theory (SIGACT), first in 1993 for her original work on interactive proof systems, and again in 2001, for her research on hardness of approximation. She is the first person to be a co-winner of this award twice.

In 1987, Goldwasser was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award, and in 1991, she was the recipient of the NSF Faculty Award for Women. She also won the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award in 1996 for outstanding young computer professional of the year, and the RSA Award in Mathematics in 1998 for outstanding mathematical contributions to cryptography. In 2001, Goldwasser was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2004, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. She was selected as a Fellow of the International Association for Cryptologic Research in 2007.

A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a B.S. degree in mathematics, Goldwasser received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley.

The Athena Lecturer is invited to present a lecture at an ACM event. Goldwasser will address the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing, sponsored by the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT), in Washington, DC in May 2009.

Each year, the Athena Lecturer honors a preeminent woman computer scientist. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom. With her knowledge, sense of purpose, and willingness to enter the fray, she epitomizes the strength, determination, and intelligence of the "Athena Lecturers." The 2008-2009 Athena Lecturer Award will be presented at the ACM Annual Awards Banquet, June 21, in San Francisco, CA.

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

About ACM-W

ACM-W is the ACM committee on Women in Computing. It celebrates, informs and supports women in computing, and works with the ACM-W community of computer scientists, educators, employers and policy makers to improve working and learning environments for women.

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