Kartik Nayak (Ph.D '18) appointed as Assistant Professor at Duke University

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Kartik Nayak (Ph.D. ’18) has been appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Duke University. Before he starts at Duke in 2019, Nayak will be completing postdoctoral work at the VMWare Research Group in San Jose, California. Nayak’s graduate advisors were Professor Jonathan Katz, who is also Director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, and Associate Professor Elaine Shi of Cornell University.

Nayak’s research focuses on applied cryptography. For his thesis, he developed and built several systems for privacy-preserving computation based on approaches including secure multiparty computation, oblivious RAM, and secure-processor design. He has also worked on designing efficient and robust blockchains in permissioned and permissionless settings, and has explored their applications to cryptocurrency. During the final two years of his Ph.D., he was supported by a Google Ph.D. Fellowship.

Nayak will continue his work in applied cryptography and privacy as part of his postdoctoral fellowship at VMware. Nayak enjoyed his experience working as part of the VMware Research Group during an internship one summer during his Ph.D.

Originally, Nayak had not considered getting a Ph.D in computer science. When he completed his undergraduate degree in Mumbai at Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute VJTI, he accepted an offer from Google.However, as a sophomore at VJTI, Nayak had attended a talk by UMD alumnus Professor Rajiv Gandhi (Ph.D. ’03) of Rutgers University, Camden when Gandhi was visiting Mumbai. Nayak and some of his fellow students mentioned an interest in theory, and Gandhi taught them discrete math and algorithms. Later, during his final semester as an undergraduate, Nayak met him again when Gandhi was visiting for the semester on a Fullbright fellowship. 

After a few years, Nayak found that he wanted to return to academia. Among the first people he contacted was Gandhi. “Rajiv always spoke highly of the University of Maryland, and it was based on his recommendation that I ultimately decided to go there,” Nayak said.

Nayak says that his time working with his advisors and other faculty in the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) was very exciting and worthwhile. “In addition to working with my advisors, I also worked with [Assistant Professor] Tudor Dumitras, [Assistant Professor] Babis Papamanthou, and [Professor] Mike Hicks—I was so grateful for those opportunities."

Of his experience of working with Katz, Nayak said, “Working with Jonathan was a fantastic learning experience. He would always ask excellent questions to help me refine and clarify my ideas, and was great at explaining difficult concepts."

"I really enjoyed working with Kartik," Katz said. "I am thrilled that he obtained a faculty job at a top-tier school, and I look forward to seeing all he will accomplish in the future."

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