27 February 2019

Anders Aamand receives the Elite Research travel grant 2019


Anders Aamand, who is a PhD student at Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen (DIKU), is one of this year's award winners of an Elite Researcher travel grant of DKK 200,000, which is awarded on 28 February 2019 by Minister of Higher Education and Science Tommy Ahlers. Anders conducts research in efficient algorithms and hash functions that can improve the efficiency of computer calculations.

Anders Aamand from a previous visit in the United States (Grand Canyon). Next time he goes East.
Anders Aamand from a previous visit in the United States (Grand Canyon). Next time he goes East.

The travel grant will enable algorithmic knowledge exchange with i.a. MIT

DIKU's proud recipient of this year's prestigious Elite Research travel grant Anders Aamand, who is otherwise based in the research centre Basic Algorithms Research Copenhagen (BARC) at DIKU, now looks forward to get out to some of the world's best universities and exchange algorithmic thoughts and ideas with leading researchers from, among others, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston and Columbia University in New York.

Anders has been occupied by Mathematics since high school

Anders' interest in Mathematics started in high school, where he participated in the Georg Mohr contest (a national Mathematics competition for high school students) and later also in the International Mathematics Olympiad.

His interest in high school years focused in particular on Combinatorics and Discrete Mathematics. A one-year Master's degree programme at Cambridge University made it possible to pursue this interest. Afterwards Mikkel Thorup, whose algorithms research involves and focuses on combinatorics and graph theory, was an obvious choice for an academic supervisor.

From combinatorics to research in hashing

Today, Anders has begun a PhD programme at DIKU within the discipline hash functions, which is the representation and categorisation of data using random functions, a sub-discipline to algorithmics.

Anders explains hashing:

- I often think of data as a collection of balls in different colours, which are to be distributed into bins by the hash function. If I am later asked whether a specific ball was part of my data, I can calculate the hash function to find the bin containing the ball. The point of using a random hash function is that most likely it will distribute the balls fairly evenly, so that no bin gets too many balls. Therefore it is easy to find out if a specific ball is already in the bin it hashes to.

This usage of hash functions in computers dates back to the 50ties, but random hash functions have proven an indispensable and diverse tool for the analysis of big data, which is so important for society today.

The only problem with truly random hash functions is that they do not exist, except as a convenient mathematical abstraction. In practice, we instead use pseudorandom hash functions that are implementable, but compromise the power of true randomness. We try to understand what kind of randomness that can be implemented and at what cost. Since hash functions are ubiquitous to computing with a wide range of diverse applications, there are many different challenges to address; a modern area of mathematics with lots of exiting opportunities to do cool math while at the same time helping the world.

Now heading for the United States - Boston and New York

The Elite Research travel grant is intended for a study period at the highly acclaimed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, as well as a stay at Columbia University in New York in the period March to September 2019. Here Anders will get the opportunity to work with some of the world's most talented PhD students and researchers within his field of research.

Hopefully, this will result in exciting research results with new partners as well as new contacts and friendships.