Professors receive Katayanagi Prizes

In association with the Tokyo University of Technology (TUT), Carnegie Mellon awarded professors Christos Papadimitriou and Erik Demaine the second annual Katayanagi Prizes in Computer Science. Papadimitriou and Demaine teach computer science at the University of California at Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), respectively.

Initiated by Koh Katayanagi, director of the Katayanagi Institute, the prizes serve to honor high achievers in the field of computer science. As this year’s senior researcher, Papadimitriou received a prize worth $20,000, and Demaine, this year’s junior researcher, received $10,000.

Notable winners in the past include David Patterson, chair of the computer science department at the University of California at Berkeley, and Takeo Igarashi, associate professor of computer science in the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo.

Papadimitriou, an internationally acclaimed theorist of algorithms, received this year’s Katayanagi Prize for Research Excellence, while Demaine walked away with the Katayanagi Emerging Leadership Prize in light of his extensive research in computational origami.

The awards ceremony took place Thursday in Wean Hall 7500 before a packed house of computer scientists, researchers, professors, and students.

TUT President Hideo Aiso said, “I am proud of this remarkable contribution that Christos Papadimitriou and Erik Demaine have made to high level education in computer science.”

In his speech, Papadimitriou emphasized the importance of mathematics in scientific disciplines like physics, biology, and chemistry.

“The deepest and most fundamental problem [in science] is computation,” Papadimitriou said.

He also shared how the computational perspective, when applied to various sciences, provides new insight into different areas of research. For example, life sciences such as biology can be approached in terms of algorithms.

“The algorithmic view is changing the sciences: mathematical, natural, life, and social. Computer science is placing itself at the center of scientific discourse and exchange of ideas,” he said.

Papadimitriou, who has taught at some of the country’s most prestigious schools, such as Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, specializes in analyzing and developing theories of algorithms and complexity. He uses his research in part to explore these theories’ applications to databases, optimization, game theory, and natural science.

According to a Carnegie Mellon press release, Papadimitriou has authored five books, including a work of fiction, Turing — A Novel about Computation, which brings together love, history, and computational science in a unique amalgamation.
Sharing Papadimitriou’s passion for algorithmic functions, Demaine took over the podium with his presentation, titled “Origami, Linkages, Polyhedra: Folding with Algorithms.”

Demaine’s work focuses on computational origami, the mathematical aspect of the centuries-old Japanese tradition of paper folding.

“[I want] to be able to answer questions that arise in science, engineering, and art reconfiguration. Folding is everywhere: in mechanics, robotics, graphics, and biology,” Demaine said.

Demaine said that origami, once thought to be relatively simple, can now be approached through computational geometry.
Different forms of origami can be constructed by algorithms. Any 2-D or 3-D shape can be folded from a single square sheet of paper by measuring the required coordinates, then simulating and deriving the numerical data computationally.
This dynamic process can help computer scientists understand the procedure of folding and tackle the problems associated with it.

Also, according to Demaine, using a mix of discrete math, geometry, algorithms, equations, and graphs, even complex processes, like DNA folding and the configuration of deployable structures, can be enhanced.

“By solving folding problems, we may build reconfigurable robots from movies like Transformers or Terminator 3, hinging together a collection of pieces that reconfigure into arbitrary shapes,” Demaine said.

Technical origami has become more popular in recent years due to a growing understanding of its mathematical and computational aspects, Demaine explained.

“We understand the math of building origami bases,” Demaine said. “The algorithmic way of thinking makes more diverse forms of origami possible.”

A collection of Demaine’s artwork is currently on display in an exhibit titled Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. During his presentation, Demaine walked his audience through the creations of physicist Robert Lang, a student of origami for over 30 years.

“I have never seen anything like Demaine’s research in Japan,” Aiso said. He also added that Demaine’s highly praised work in origami provides a new perspective to the Japanese culture of origami through computer science.

“I hope these prizes will grow in significance and size, and strengthen the partnership between TUT and Carnegie Mellon,” Aiso said.

Dean Randal E. Bryant, along with many other distinguished members of the School of Computer Science, was also present at the awards ceremony. The award winners will present their work at TUT on May 23.