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Ramprasad Saptharishi wins the ACM-India Best Doctoral Dissertation

Award 2013
The dissertation provided crucial insights into some open problems in theoretical
computer science
Bangalore, January 12, 2015: Dr. Ramprasad Saptharishi has won the 2013 Best Doctoral
Dissertation Award presented by ACM-India (India chapter of Association for Computing
Machinery). His dissertation titled Unified Approaches to Polynomial Identity Testing and Lower
Bounds provided crucial insights into some open problems in theoretical computer science.
A long-standing open problem in theoretical computer science is commonly known by the name
P vs NP. Informally, this asks whether solving a computational problem is harder than
checking a solution of the problem. While our natural intuition suggests that solving should be
harder than checking, there is no rigorous mathematical proof of that yet. Leslie Valiant, one of
the leading theoretical computer scientists in the world, defined in 1983 an algebraic analogue
of the P vs NP question as a first step towards understanding the intricacies of the problem.
This analogue has since been called the VP vs VNP question. Informally, this asks whether all
describable functions can be easily computed. The answer is widely believed to be in the
negative, but we do not know yet how to show any explicit lower bound of the computational
difficulty. Besides direct attempts to obtaining these lower bounds, an indirect approach was
found via a problem called Polynomial Identity Testing. Indeed, it was shown that any nontrivial progress on either of these fronts would imply progress towards the general VP vs VNP
The main contribution of Dr. Ramprasad Saptharishis dissertation is a unification of varied
approaches taken in this direction, and improving several results on lower bounds and
Polynomial Identity Testing. In particular, one of the lower bounds presented in his dissertation
is considered a breakthrough in this field and has led to a flurry of activity in the area of
arithmetic circuit complexity. Dr. Saptharishi's results have generated optimism among
researchers that the VP vs VNP question may indeed be resolved in the near future.
Dr. Ramprasad Saptharishi, Awardee, said This wonderful honor should be shared with all
my co-authors, and I am really fortunate to have worked with them during my Ph.D. Specially, I
am deeply indebted to the support of Neeraj Kayal and Satya Lokam from Microsoft Research.
Even when their group had no more funds for fresh interns, they extended my stay by paying
me out of their own pockets! That stay led to the work described in the last chapter of my thesis,

without which I doubt my thesis would have been chosen for this award. I just hope I can
emulate them and contribute enough to this community in the years to come.
Prof Narendra Ahuja, Chairperson of the Jury, ACM-India Best Doctoral Dissertation
Award, said, All theses were reviewed by people who were on the cutting edge of research in
the area that the thesis contributed. Theses were collected from the reviewers and a complied
report was sent to us. We again did a cross research on all theses, trying to overcome the
differences between different areas. Theses were judged based upon the quality of contribution,
quality of presentation and potential impact on the field, which are the basic factors considered
while reviewing any technical paper. We were also looking for not only the best thesis but a
thesis that was above certain qualified thresholds and was a world class contribution. We found
that Ramprasads thesis passed all these standards, it was of high quality and was the best
among all theses.

About ACM India

ACM is the largest and most significant professional association in computing areas. The ACM
India chapter is an effort of ACM aimed at increasing the level and visibility of ACM's activities
across India. The ACM community in India is growing in membership, number of chapters,
sponsored conferences and symposia. The ACM India Council comprises a cross section of the
computer science and information technology community committed to increasing the visibility
and relevance of ACM in India.

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