Cynthia Dwork wins Knuth Prize for Outstanding Contributions to the Foundations of Computer Science

May 15, 2020
Cynthia Dwork
by Elizabeth Salazar

SIGACT has awarded the 2020 Donald E. Knuth Prize to IQSS faculty affiliate Cynthia Dwork for her impactful work in the field of computer science.

The Knuth Prize is given annually by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) to an individual who has made “high-impact, seminal contributions to the foundations of computer science” over an extended period of time.

Cynthia Dwork, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, has earned this recognition for her transformative contributions to multiple areas of computer science, including cryptography, data privacy, and distributed systems. Among her many accomplishments is the co-invention of differential privacy, a system which provides mathematical guarantees to protect the privacy of individuals included in a dataset while still making it possible to gain meaningful insight from the data.

“A striking feature of Dwork’s work is her willingness and ability to tackle big, important problems,” the ACM SIGACT selection committee said in their recent announcement. They went on to say that Dwork has been a leading figure in scientific communities “both through her technical work and by creating opportunities for the communities to develop (for example, through advocacy efforts, organizing multi-disciplinary workshops, founding journals, and chairing conferences). Modern theoretical computer science would look very different without her involvement.”