“At EPFL I learned the importance of teamwork”

L-R Rachid Guerraoui and Igor Zablotchi © Igor Zablotchi / EPFL 2022

L-R Rachid Guerraoui and Igor Zablotchi © Igor Zablotchi / EPFL 2022

Former EPFL PhD student recognized for his research that brings mathematics and technology together.

Igor Zablotchi spent 11 years at EPFL in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences undertaking his BSc and MSc, completing his PhD in 2020. His research centered on distributed computing, which is used extensively in core cloud services used by millions of people every day, and is concerned with solving tasks through the use of multiple collaborating processes, for example, machines on a network or lots of processes inside a single machine.

Zablotchi’s thesis, which recently received a EuroSys Roger Needham PhD award honorable mention, explored ways in which new technologies can fundamentally improve distributed computing, as well as the trade-offs incurred by such improvements. “It focused on two recent technologies, called RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) and persistent memory, and showed how these technologies enable better performance and reliability, lower complexity, and faster failure recovery. I also studied the trade-offs between these improvements and the unavoidable extra costs or overheads introduced by these technologies,” he explained.

Professor Rachid Guerraoui, Head of the Distributed Computing Laboratory was Zablotchi's PhD supervisor, "Igor's thesis is rather theoretical and the prize was awarded by a practical systms conference, this is very rare! In my opinion this is because he was able to use modelling to transform theory into the practical experiences that technology providers are observing today. This award really recognizes the marriage between technology and mathematics, which is what computer science is all about.”

Zablotchi is now a postdoctoral fellow at MIT CSAIL where his research currently focuses on deep learning, specifically on ways to learn with less data, and on efficiently leveraging very large deep learning models. He is grateful for what EPFL taught him, both academically and personally.

“I gained not only a great technical and scientific education but also built a network of amazing people, both collaborators and friends. At EPFL I also learnt the importance of teamwork. I also think that EPFL has a “playful” and light-hearted atmosphere, which makes difficult problems seem less daunting and I hope to have taken a small part of that mentality with me.”

And his advice to current students? “Try to find great collaborators and work hard to maintain your relationships with them. For me, collaborating with others was the best part of my PhD. Not only did they help me to be more productive and creative but they were also great company during the scarier and more difficult parts of the journey. Even more, they helped expand my network, which is very useful for creating even more collaborations, going on internships, and finding opportunities after graduation.”