Women Scientists in IISc – Dr. Chaya Ganesh


Dr. Chaya Ganesh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Automation.  She joined  IISc in 2019.  Her area of Research is Cryptography.  She did her PhD in Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, US, and Postdoc at Aarhus University, Denmark.

• When did you first realize that you wanted to be a scientist?

There was no one defining moment. An undergrad internship piqued my curiosity in cryptography and led me to pursue MS, and later a Ph.D.

• What attracted you to apply to and join IISc?

IISc is a top research institute in India. During my visits to CSA, I found it to be a thriving place with young faculty and energetic students. When the time came to move to India, applying to IISc was a natural choice.

• What will your research at IISc focus on?

My research interests are broadly in cryptography. My research will focus on both fundamental and applied cryptography. I am also interested in studying problems in Machine Learning and Distributed computing through a cryptographic lens.

• Why did you choose this area of research?

As clichédas it sounds, books by Simon Singh, a popular science author(Fermat’s Last Theorem, The Code Book) intrigued me at a formative age. Thankfully, the  curiosity stayed, and interest deepened even after diving into the mathematical foundations.

• What are the big unresolved questions in your field?

Most of modern cryptography is based on “hardness” assumptions, that is, assuming that some problems are hard for a computer to solve in a reasonable amount of time.

One of the challenges in cryptography is basing this on complexity theoretic foundations, and establishing the (non) existence of hard problems.

• What is the most important advice you got that you think has helped you in your career?

There are many pieces of advice I have received that have helped me in different phases. One of the important ones that remain with me is to have an internal measure of doing science, and to remember to not lose sight of the ideals that led me to this.

• If you had any women mentors or role models in science, who were they and what do you think you’ve learned most from them?

Cryptography is a field where there are not only many women scientists; many of the pioneers of the field, Shafi Goldwasser and Tal Rabin are excellent role models.

I have been fortunate to have had mentors and role models throughout my graduate school and post-doctoral phase.

I have learned to be sensitive; coming from disadvantaged and under-represented groups bring unique challenges, and the specific challenges one faces depends on culture – of the country, the local culture that is established at the workplace, etc. I have learned to be sensitive to such issues, to be conscious of my biases, and work to contribute towards an environment that is fair and inclusive.

•What is the most fulfilling thing about a life in science?

One of the most rewarding things is the freedom to ask questions, and the opportunity for continuous learning. Science is increasingly global and collaborative, and I find collaborating with people an enriching experience.

Click here for some of the Other Women in Science