Third woman to win Turing Award to receive an honorary doctorate

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shafira (Shafi) Goldwasser is one of today’s leading computer scientists, known for her contributions to the foundations of cryptography, privacy, and security. In 2018, Goldwasser became the Director of the world’s leading venue for collaborative research in theoretical computer science, the Simons Institute for Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley.

After completing her BS at Carnegie Mellon University, Goldwasser went on to complete her Master’s and PhD at Berkeley. She returned east to work as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Hired on as a faculty member, MIT appointed her the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and she also holds a professorship at Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel.

Goldwasser has focused on cryptography, computational number theory, complexity theory, fault-tolerant distributed computing, probabilistic proof systems, and approximation algorithms. She co-invented semantically secure probabilistic encryption providing secure communications and transactions over the internet. She also co-invented pseudorandom functions and zero-knowledge proofs – a new idea at the time. Zero-knowledge proofs deal with the security of cryptographic protocols by controlling leakage of knowledge. Additionally, she proved primality using elliptic curves with another co-inventor.

Her contributions to complexity theory, including the development of interactive proof systems and the discovery of the connection to the complexity of approximation earned her two Gödel prizes. She has also received the following honours:

  • NSF Award for Women in Science
  • ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award
  • Athena Lecturer, ACM Committee on Women in Computing
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Fellow of National Academy of Sciences
  • Fellow of National academy of Engineering
  • International Association for Cryptologic Research Fellow

With Waterloo’s long history of cryptography, privacy, and security, it is fitting that Goldwasser will receive an honorary doctorate on Friday, June 14. She will also give a talk on June 13 and participate in a panel moderated by Maura Grossman as part of the Turing Symposium and Celebrating Women in Computer Science