Photo Credits – Mr. Haridasan
Bhavana Kanukurthi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Automation. She completed her PhD at Boston University and postdoc at the University of California, Los Angeles, and joined IISc in 2014. Her area of research is cryptography.
My cousin was pursuing his doctoral degree when I was in high school. That’s when I knew that I wanted to do a PhD. However, to say that I knew I wanted to be a scientist would be untrue. It just happened!
I liked the fact that it was mathematically oriented.
Cryptography requires computational problems that are “hard to solve” i.e. problems that a computer will not be able to solve in a reasonable amount of time. For example, it is believed (though not proven) that factoring a product of two large prime numbers is hard. Without the existence of such “hard” problems, cryptography, as a field, doesn’t exist. We are yet to resolve whether such hard problems exist. This means that the biggest unresolved question in Cryptography, ironically, is whether Cryptography as a field exists or not!
“Cryptography is a unique – sadly, unique – discipline in that one of its pioneers is a woman researcher, Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, a Turing Award Winner.”
The most important advice I received was the following one from my doctoral advisor, Prof. Leo Reyzin: Always identify your strengths and weaknesses and then exploit your strengths to mitigate your weaknesses. While Leo’s advice was in the context of pursuing research, I believe this makes for fantastic life advice too!
Cryptography is a unique – sadly, unique – discipline in that one of its pioneers is a woman researcher, Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, a Turing Award Winner. While I wasn’t mentored by her, I believe she is one of the reasons why Cryptography is a remarkably gender-neutral field. Shafi and other senior female cryptographers such as Dr Tal Rabin (IBM Research) and Prof Cynthia Dwork (Harvard University) have inspired me with their presence. Seeing their success has taught me to not impose artificial gender-oriented limitations on myself. After joining CSA, I came to know about the late Prof. Priti Shankar, who was a faculty at CSA. I heard that she was a fantastic colleague, teacher, scientist and human being. I also learnt that she was the first female electrical engineer to graduate from IIT Delhi. I never had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Priti Shankar but her life inspires me and I wish I had gotten to know her.
I enjoy mentoring students and watching them grow as researchers.
The academic freedom plus the fact that when I come to the campus in the morning, all I see are the pleasant sun rays glistening through the trees and all I hear are the birds chirping in the sky. It is an absolute bliss to chase challenging research questions in an environment as serene as this.
The fact that change trickles a bit slowly at IISc!
Find yourself great role models, both male and female. There are a lot of fantastic people out there. As you discover your own identity as a scientist, you will do well to draw inspiration from them.
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