Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Informatics Olympiads (II): Why Should I Care?

Well, first of all, the IOI is "coming" whether you care or not :). The IMO, the parallel Math olympiad started in 1959 (in Romania!), is a major force in Mathematics. It generates instant respect for winners, reinforced by its track record of producing 8 Fields medalists (among which Gowers and Tao, plus pseudo-medalist Perelman), and countless other celebrities (László Lovász comes to mind).

The IOI was born much more recently (1989) and the medalists are only now "coming of age". Still there are quite a few IOI-turned-theorists that have already won acclaim (sorted by IOI years):

  • Mohammad Mahdian [ 1992, 1993 ], the quiet game theorist, now at Yahoo! Research
  • Mihai Bădoiu [ 1995; 1996 ], relentless metric embedder, now at Google Research
  • Mohammad-Taghi Hajiaghayi [ 1997 ], the force single-handedly responsible for biasing SODA statistics, now at AT&T Research
  • Alex Andoni [ 1999, 1998, 1997 ], high-dimensional algorithmist, still PhD@mit
  • Krzysztof Onak [ 2000, 1999 ], early in his PhD@mit but world famous for this.
  • your humble(?) blogger [ 2001, 2000, 1999 ]
    ... and I'm sure I'm missing people. Please post a comment.
Probably there are many more great examples in systems, AI etc. But let's stick to theory for now.

So there are top-notch people coming from IOI. But how are IOI people doing on average, you may ask? I sent out the word and in-came this REMARKABLE DATA about a cross-section of the IOI medalists that I had access to (namely, the Romanians). We have almost complete data about the educational and career paths of all 56 Romanians that ever won a medal at the IOI!

Here are a few quick facts:
  • ≥ 2 faculty (one Cluj, one Utah); ≥ 4 expressed intention for academic career post-PhD

  • ≥ 9 people at Google :)

  • ≥ 13 PhDs -- MIT (6), Princeton (2), Berkley (1), the Netherlands (2), Romania (2)

  • undergrad -- MIT (10), Caltech (2), Princeton (1), Brown (1), Waterloo (1)
    Bucharest Politechnic (13), Bucharest Univ. (5), Bremen, Germany (4)
I am sure you will agree that we are looking at a very successful group of people! Congratulations to all!

The take-home message. If I have not made it clear enough, the take-home message is that we want to be competing with Google, and get the IOI people as PhD students. The IOI is young, but it has already proven to be a good indicator for success, and it is ready to enter our community's conscience.

This is especially true in theory -- the IOI is mainly about algorithmic skill, and that is precisely what we want. The love of solving algorithmic problems is a shared value in the IOI and the theory community. The IOI is ours more than it belongs to any other field in Computer Science.


Mihai said...

Appologies for the repost... It took a while before I understood how to fix the images.

Mihai said...

Like I said, I probably forgot people, so post a comment or email me. Via Valentin Polishchuk, I learn about:

Mikhail Bautin [gold+maximum score 2000, bronze 99], now PhD @ Stony Brook.

Anonymous said...

count me in as an average ioi & boi participant who is doing Phd@RPI...

Mihai said...

I am reminded about the following IOIers, now doing a PhD in theory:

** David Pritchard (gold 2000, silver 1999, silver 1998 for Canada), PhD at Waterloo

** Omid Etesami (silver 2000 for Iran), now PhD at Berkeley

** Gregory Price (bronze 2000 for USA), starting a PhD at MIT

** Timothy Abbott (silver 2003 for USA), starting a PhD at MIT

Mihai said...

Of course, in the list of already established theorists, I should've had:

** David Arthur (gold 2000, gold 1999, bronze 1998)

Good to see MIT does not have a monopoly ;)

Mihai said...

[Seems everybody prefers to email me instead of posting... Scoring points for Web 2.0!]

Good to hear the US/Canada don't have monopoly either:

** Michal Forišek (gold 1999, gold 1998), now PhD at Comenius, in Bratislava

Mihai said...

Jelany asks me to also list the following IOIers who are now doing a PhD in Math, in the hope that "they may one day migrate toward their true calling":

** Reid Barton (gold 2000, gold 2001 -- beating me for 1st place), now PhD at Harvard

** Steven Sivek (bronze 2001), now PhD at MIT

حمید said...

Two people i know:

Amin Saberi (Bronze, IOI 96, for Iran), Assistant professor in Stanford University

Mohammad Hossein Bateni (Gold, IOI 2002, for Iran), PhD student in Princeton

pálenica said...

An incomplete list of people from Slovakia who did well @IOI and are doing research in CS:

Daniel Stefankovic
(gold '93)
PhD Uchicago, now prof at U Rochester.

Tomas Vinar (gold '93, '94)
PhD UWaterloo, now Postdoc @Cornell, bioinformatics

Brona Brejova (silver '93, bronze '94)
Postdoc @Cornell, bioinformatics

Miro Dudik (silver '95, gold '96, '97)
Machine learning/algorithms. PhD@Princeton, moving to a CMU postdoc

Stanislav Funiak
(silver '97, gold '98)
CMU PhD student, AI/robotics

An example of IOI influence on math:

Peter Bella (gold '02)
Starting PhD in math at NYU/Courant