Lucas Kowalczyk awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Lucas Kowalczyk, a first-year PhD student in computer science, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, which recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. Kowalczyk was one of 2000 students funded out of 16,500 applicants, and one of only 40 chosen from the New York area.
The fellowship will support Kowalczyk financially for three years while giving him the freedom and flexibility to pursue the type of research that interests him.
“I’m honored to receive the fellowship and excited that the NSF has offered to support additional work in my research area,” says Kowalczyk.
Advised by Tal Malkin and Allison Bishop Lewko, Kowalczyk is focusing on functional encryption, a new area of cryptography that provides more fine-grained control over access to encrypted data. Unlike regular encryption today in which a single secret key decrypts all the data, functional encryption allows for many different secret keys with different levels of functionality, making it possible for some people to see some data and not other data. A good application for functional encryption is a medical database that grants doctors access to detailed patient health data while allowing insurance companies to see only whether a procedure was performed or not, but nothing else.
Besides maintaining data privacy, functional encryption has other exciting applications, including program obfuscation and delegated computation. Still, there remains much work to be done in order to expand the capabilities of practical functional encryption systems.
Last year while still an undergraduate, he co-wrote with Allison Bishop Lewko the paper Bilinear Entropy Expansion from the Decisional Linear Assumption, which describes a new method for generating public parameters (which, like public keys, allow one to perform encryption) that are exponentially smaller than previous constructions. This more efficient method, which applies to a particular type of functional encryption (attribute-based encryption) has obvious benefit for someone wanting to use this type of encryption for actual implementations.
This summer, Kowalczyk will intern at AT&T Bell Laboratories doing cryptography research related to his current work.
Dean Boyce's statement on amicus brief filed by President Bollinger
President Bollinger announced that Columbia University along with many other academic institutions (sixteen, including all Ivy League universities) filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging the Executive Order regarding immigrants from seven designated countries and refugees. Among other things, the brief asserts that “safety and security concerns can be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”
This recent action provides a moment for us to collectively reflect on our community within Columbia Engineering and the importance of our commitment to maintaining an open and welcoming community for all students, faculty, researchers and administrative staff. As a School of Engineering and Applied Science, we are fortunate to attract students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, from across the country, and from around the world. It is a great benefit to be able to gather engineers and scientists of so many different perspectives and talents – all with a commitment to learning, a focus on pushing the frontiers of knowledge and discovery, and with a passion for translating our work to impact humanity.
I am proud of our community, and wish to take this opportunity to reinforce our collective commitment to maintaining an open and collegial environment. We are fortunate to have the privilege to learn from one another, and to study, work, and live together in such a dynamic and vibrant place as Columbia.
Mary C. Boyce
Dean of Engineering
Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor