Hajiaghayi Wins Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

Apr 12, 2019

Mohammad T. Hajiaghayi, the Jack and Rita G. Minker Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, has just been named a 2019 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Hajiaghayi, who has an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), is being recognized for his research in applied mathematics.

He is one of 168 scholars, artists and writers receiving the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship this year on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. The successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the foundation’s 95th competition for the award. They will be honored next month at a reception in New York City.

The fellowship, which is primarily awarded to those in the creative arts and humanities, was designed to provide honorees with the time and resources to work with as much creative freedom as possible. Hajiaghayi is one of 13 awardees in 2019 whose work is based in the natural sciences.

He will receive $50,000 over 12 months to continue his research on algorithms for big graphs and game theory.

Hajiaghayi’s algorithms—which are used by companies like Google and Amazon—analyze data sets with trillions of connections while accounting for user objectives and incentives.

“I want to keep working on solving real-world problems essentially,” Hajiaghayi says. “These technology companies will help me do that because they have huge datasets that you can’t find anywhere else.”

His algorithms also help process large datasets on devices with a limited amount of fast memory—a smartphone or tablet, for example—or devices that are connected to a relatively slow external data source.

Mihai Pop, a professor of computer science and director of UMIACS, notes that Hajiaghayi’s research is forward-looking and beneficial to society—both of which are driving factors in research and innovation supported by UMIACS.

“Mohammad’s work in game theory can improve human-based decisions in areas like shared governance or organ donor exchanges,” Pop says. “We are very proud to have him as a colleague and thrilled that he has won this award.”

Before joining UMD, Hajiaghayi was a senior researcher in the Algorithms and Theoretical Computer Science group at AT&T Labs.

Prior to that, he was a one-year postdoctoral fellow in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and a one-year postdoctoral associate at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), where he earned his doctorate in applied mathematics in 2005.

Hajiaghayi received his master of science degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo in 2001 and his undergraduate degree in computer engineering from Sharif University of Technology in 2000.

In addition to his position at UMD, Hajiaghayi holds a research affiliate position in CSAIL. He is also a permanent member of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) at Rutgers University.

—Story by Maria Herd