Lucas Kowalczyk awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Lucas Kowalczyk

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.
Posted 4/24/2015