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Alum Amnon Lotem wins EATCS/ACM SIGACT Gödel Prize

Alumnus Amnon Lotem (CS Ph.D. 2000) and co-authors Ronald Fagin (IBM Research—Almaden) and Moni Naor (Weizmann Institute of Science) have been honored with the 2014 Gödel Prize for their paper, “Optimal Aggregation Algorithms for Middleware.” Lotem was advised at Maryland by Professor Dana Nau (CS/ISR).

The paper introduced the powerful “threshold algorithm” that is widely used in applications and systems that demand optimal results for gathering multi-sourced information. It provides a framework to design and analyze algorithms where aggregation of information from multiple data sources is needed, such as in information retrieval and machine learning. In these situations, the threshold algorithm offers a very efficient method for producing a single unified list of the “top k” results from the combined data sources. The threshold algorithm’s elegant mathematical properties and simplicity are particularly suitable for use in middleware, software that is often used to augment computer operating systems that support complex, distributed applications. The authors also introduced the notion of instance optimality, an extremely strong guarantee of performance, and showed that the threshold algorithm is instance optimal. The paper’s groundbreaking results have built a foundation for much follow-on research.

Lotem first started pursuing the ideas in the paper in a course on databases during his time at Maryland. His instructor suggested he examine an idea for improving the existing “Fagin’s algorithm” in data aggregation. Lotem created an optimal algorithm for the defined problem, and he and the instructor, Mike Franklin, subsequently co-authored on a paper that summarized both algorithms, and analyzed optimal aggregation algorithms for middleware.

Lotem is an algorithms and technologies expert in the Israeli high-tech industry. The prize will be awarded in July at the 41st International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming in Copenhagen.

The Gödel Prize recognizes outstanding papers in theoretical computer science and is presented by the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS) and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (ACM SIGACT).

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May 4, 2014

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