Ashkan Norouzi Fard wins 2018 Patrick Denantes Memorial Prize

Norouzi Fard receiving his award at the 2018 IC Christmas Party © Viktor Kuncak

Norouzi Fard receiving his award at the 2018 IC Christmas Party © Viktor Kuncak

Ashkan Norouzi Fard, who completed his PhD this past year, won for his thesis, “Algorithms for Clustering Problems: Theoretical Guarantees and Empirical Evaluations”. The Patrick Denantes Memorial Prize is awarded annually to a doctoral student in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC) for his or her outstanding thesis.

Norouzi Fard’s research also won him an EDIC Thesis Distinction.

As part of his doctoral work, Norouzi Farddeveloped algorithms for clustering problems, including k-means, k-median, and dynamic facility location problems. Such algorithms are important for accurately grouping ever-changing digital data, like webpages and photos, into similar categories.

One of the algorithms he developed is exceptional because it’s the first constant factor approximation algorithm for the dynamic facility location problem, meaning that its accuracy can be mathematically bounded independently of the size of the data input.

“Previous approaches depended on the size of the input, so the guarantee got worse and worse with more input,” Norouzi Fard explained. “We designed an algorithm that we can theoretically prove performs well, even in the worst-case scenario.”

Originally from Iran, Norouzi Fard developed his thesis under the direction of Professor Ola Svensson in the Theoretical Computer Science group (TCS). Since January, he has been working as a software engineer at Google Research in Zurich.

Patrick Denantes was an IC doctoral student who passed away in a mountain accident on 12 July, 2009. The annual prize in Patrick’s name honors his memory. Winners receive a sum of CHF5,000.