Aayush Jain Receives ACM’s Best Doctoral Dissertation Award for Cryptography Research
Aayush Jain, a researcher who played a crucial role in a cryptographic breakthrough in 2020, has been honored with the best doctoral dissertation award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Jain, a Ph.D. student at UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, received recognition for his research in indistinguishability obfuscation (iO), a groundbreaking encryption technique. Quanta Magazine referred to this breakthrough as the “crown jewel” of cryptography.
Despite his initial focus on mathematics rather than computer science, Jain became fascinated with cryptography and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the field. He attended the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi before joining UCLA Samueli for his doctoral studies.
Amit Sahai’s Guidance and UCLA Samueli’s Close-Knit Environment
Jain credits his advisor, Amit Sahai, for his guidance and support throughout the research process. Sahai, a renowned cryptography researcher, played a pivotal role in Jain’s decision to join UCLA Samueli. Jain highlights Sahai’s ability to understand the needs of students and foster their research interests. He also praises the close-knit environment at UCLA, where professors take a personal interest in the development of their students.
Proving the Existence of Indistinguishability Obfuscation
Jain, Sahai, and Huijia “Rachel” Lin from the University of Washington made history in 2020 by proving the existence of indistinguishability obfuscation. Their landmark findings, published in a preprint archive, received widespread acclaim for their groundbreaking implications. They showcased their research in a peer-reviewed paper at the 2021 ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing.
ACM’s Doctoral Dissertation Award and Jain’s Teaching and Research Career
ACM honored Jain’s Ph.D. dissertation, “Indistinguishability obfuscation from well-founded assumptions,” with its prestigious Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2022. This award recognizes the best doctoral thesis in computer science and engineering and includes a $20,000 prize. Jain draws inspiration from Craig Gentry, a previous recipient of the same award, whose research influenced Jain’s own work in cryptography. Reflecting on his time at UCLA, Jain values the close relationships he formed with professors and the support he received for both research and personal development.
Continuing Research at Carnegie Mellon University
Currently an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Jain leads his own research group focusing on developing efficient obfuscation schemes. His team aims to leverage underutilized assumptions and explore new sources for hard problems that have been extensively studied in other domains. Jain believes that cryptography and complexity go hand in hand, and he sees potential in addressing well-understood problems to achieve new goals in cryptography.