Shafi Goldwasser. Computer scientist. Celebrated researcher. Esteemed professor and winner of awards. We strive to decipher your complex and dazzling work because we know that it is truly changing our world.
America and Israel both proudly claim you. Born here in New York City, you grew up in Tel Aviv, through grade school and high school, loving literature and time spent on the beach. But applied mathematics drew you to Carnegie Mellon University for a bachelor of science in 1979. Then, undaunted by uncertainty, you tried out computer programming, fell for algorithms, and worked on CMU’s multiprocessor system project. A summer internship in Los Angeles took you back to the beach and eventually up the coast. There, without a full plan in mind, you started graduate studies in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, setting a path for greatness.
You thrived in the academic mix and began to develop theories of your own such as the pivotal “zero-knowledge” proof in which one party can prove they have a piece of information without revealing the information itself. You went on to MIT as a post-doc and then professor and, in an echo of your dual citizenship, also began teaching at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1992.
In the decades to follow, you would leave no sub-linear, pseudorandom bit of data unturned. But it was a match made in computing heaven, with colleague Silvio Micali, that propelled you further still. Together, as you’ve said, you let your imaginations run free, developing new mechanisms for how information is encrypted and secured. On June 15, 2013, the two of you earned the prestigious Alan M. Turing Award, oft-known as the Nobel Prize in computing, for transforming and revolutionizing the science of cryptology… and you, only the third women ever to receive it.
We have so much to learn, not only from your stellar work, but from your intrepid and clever approach to life… be persistent, follow unlikely leads, look to your mentors for inspiration, and kick dogma and conventional wisdom to the curb.
Therefore, Professor Goldwasser, on behalf of my alma mater and my 617 brilliant Barnard classmates, it is an honor to present you with the 2016 Medal of Distinction… as well-defined proof of our limitless thanks and for all the discovery that is still yet to come.