Prof. Nitin Saxena is a highly acclaimed computer scientist who shook the global scientific community by the sheer brilliance and simplicity of his groundbreaking work in the early 2000s. The fact that the work formed a part of his joint undergraduate thesis at IIT Kanpur makes it a rare feat. In a joint paper titled 'PRIMES is in P', written along with Prof. Manindra Agrawal and Dr. Neeraj Kayal, he proposed the AKS Primality test that was labeled as "a wonderfully elegant" primality-proving algorithm by scientists the world over.
He was later felicitated with two of the most prestigious honors in the field of theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics, Godel Prize 2006 and Fulkerson Prize 2006. In fact, he is the youngest Godel Prize winner ever. He is a recipient of numerous other prestigious awards including the INSA Young Scientist Medal, 2015, and the Swarna Jayanti Fellowship, 2013-14. In 2018, he added another recognition to his list when he was selected for the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in Mathematical Sciences. At 37, he is one of the youngest scientists to receive this honor.
Currently, Prof. Saxena is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kanpur. He broadly works in the areas of computational complexity theory, algebra, geometry, and number theory. In 2003, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his exceptional academic brilliance. In 2009, he was voted one of the top 50 alumni by the IIT Kanpur Alumni Association to celebrate 50 years of the institute.
"I analyze computers using an area in mathematics called algebra. Algebra has fascinated me since school days. I now use it to solve computer science problems. Along the way, this research creates a new kind of mathematics that is beautiful and sometimes practical."
Prof. Nitin Saxena completed his B.Tech. in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur in 2002. For his excellent performance in the first two semesters of study at IITK, he received the National Scholarship 1999. For his joint undergraduate thesis work titled Towards a deterministic polynomial-time primality test that won him the best B.Tech. Project Award in 2002, he teamed up with Neeraj Kayal, his batchmate. The interesting fact is that both Nitin and Neeraj were members of the Indian team selected for the 1997 International Mathematical Olympiad Training Camp (IMOTC '97). Prof. Saxena was a part of both IMOTC' 97 & IMOTC '98 and won the Best Solution to a Challenging Problem award in both the camps (Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai).
The same year, he gained worldwide attention for proposing the AKS Primality Test in a paper titled Primes is in P on 6 August 2002, along with Prof. Manindra Agrawal and Neeraj Kayal. Scientists the world over labeled it "a wonderfully elegant" primality-proving algorithm that is general, polynomial, deterministic, and unconditional. Later, the trio went on to receive two of the highest honors in the field, the 2006 Fulkerson Prize and the 2006 Godel Prize, for their breakthrough work. Prof. Agrawal said about his students, "They are happy but at the same time quite cool about it. I would say they are very level-headed boys. They still need to pick up so many things. But they are free to make the decision - they already have an offer from TIFR [Tata Institute of Fundamental Research]." On the attention they received, Prof. Saxena, who was then a student, commented, "It was just simple algebra that we worked with. But there is so much to learn in mathematics and computer science."
Being deeply interested in the subject of mathematics, Prof. Saxena chose to work in complexity theory considering it a way to unravel the mysteries and solve the longstanding problems in mathematics. He decided to stay back and pursue his PhD under Prof. Agrawal at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IITK. During his doctoral studies, he was a Visiting Student Research Collaborator at Princeton University (2003-2004) and a Visiting Scholar at the National University of Singapore (2004-2005). Throughout his doctoral work from 2002 to 2006, he received the Infosys Ph.D. Fellowship. In 2005, IBM India Research Lab felicitated him with the 'Outstanding PhD Student Award'. His dissertation is titled Morphisms of rings and applications to complexity.
In September 2006, he started his postdoctoral work at the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), Amsterdam, Netherlands, and continued till 2008. He then joined the Hausdor Center for Mathematics, University of Bonn, Germany, as a Bonn Junior Fellow (W2 Professor). In 2013, he returned to India and joined his alma mater IIT Kanpur as an Associate Professor and continues to pursue his research interests in Computational Complexity Theory, Algebra, Geometry, and Number Theory. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Chennai Mathematical Institute, Tamil Nadu (2018 - 2021). In 2018, he was awarded the IIT Kanpur Young Faculty Research Fellowship for a period of three years.
Prof. Saxena has served on several program committees (FCT 2019, FSTTCS 2018, STACS 2014, CCC 2011 and CSR 2011); and reviewed for prestigious journals (Combinatorica, Comp. Complex., J. Complexity, Math. Comput., SIAM J. Comp, J. Symb. Comput. ...) and conferences (ANTS, CCC, FCT, FOCS, FSTTCS, ICALP, ISSAC, STOC, SODA, STACS ...).
Prof. Saxena is also a recipient of numerous prestigious national and international awards.
Achievements and Honors
Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award, 2018
INSA Young Scientist Medal, INSA, 2015
SwarnaJayanti Fellowship, Department of Science and Technology, India, 2013-14
Best Paper Award (Track A) for the joint paper Algebraic independence and Blackbox identity testing by EATCS at ICALP Conference, 2011
Best Paper Award and the Ronald V. Book Best Student Paper Award for the joint paper Polynomial Identity Testing for Depth 3 Circuits, IEEE Conference on Computational Complexity, 2006
Godel Prize, ACM-SIGACT & EATCS, 2006
AMS-MPS Delbert Ray Fulkerson Prize, 2006
Outstanding PhD Student Award, IBM India Research Lab, 2005