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Chandan Saha – A Computer Scientist with an eye for Mathematics

Photo: Siddharth Kankaria

Chandan Saha of the Computer Science and Automation department, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru is the winner of two prestigious national awards – the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) Young Scientist Award, 2016, and the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) Young Engineer Award, 2016. He works in the areas of complexity theory and algorithms, and his lab is currently trying to study arithmetic circuits to understand computational efficiency as a function of time and computational memory.

 “Circuits generally come in two flavours - arithmetic circuits that are used for studying arithmetic operations, and Boolean circuits that are more fundamental and closer to the gut of computation,” explains Saha. In his view, circuits are just one of the formal mathematical models that can capture the essence of computation. Saha’s lab is studying arithmetic circuits that can be used to analyse problems in linear algebra, like determinant and matrix product computations, solve polynomial equations used in robotic arm movements, in information and coding theory, as well as in cryptography. The lab has a Ph.D. scholar and three Master’s students actively involved in its work.

Saha is an alumnus of Jadavpur University, Kolkata and credits his success to the influence his teachers had on him. His Ph.D. advisor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Prof. Mahindra Agarwal’s working style has been a great source of inspiration to him. “I only realised it in retrospect how important it is for a Ph.D. student to grow independently and develop his own thought process and his own chain of ideas,” he recalls while fondly recollecting his college days.

Being an academician, Saha sees the need to attract more students towards academia. Being inquisitive, patient and perseverant are some of the characteristics he desires to see in his students rather than just being able to score well in exams. This, he says builds the ability to catch up to the research dimension, which requires long hours of thought process. In his opinion, a challenge for our schools and undergraduate institutions is to appreciate and encourage creativity in each student instead of putting too much emphasis on grades and rankings.

Saha has been at IISc for the last four years and has seen his area of research scale new heights. “Arithmetic circuit complexity is a relatively new terrain in mathematics and a fertile area. I plan to stay here and generate new ideas as long as there is momentum and progress. I also want to train Ph.D. students and focus on teaching”, he signs off with a smile.