Northeastern student presents at prestigious ICALP conference in Kyoto

July 31, 2015

When they submitted their paper for consideration to the International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming (ICALP), Professor Emanuele Viola, Eric Miles and Hamidreza Jahanjou didn’t have high hopes. After all, “Local Reductions,” the paper Miles had just submitted, had already been rejected from two less prestigious conferences in the United States.

Then the acceptance email came.

“I got this email and I clicked on it with the expectation of seeing yet another ‘We regret to inform you…’ I was waiting for that, the usual,” Jahanjou, a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in computer science remembers. “Then it said, ‘Congratulations…’”

ICALP, an annual conference organized by the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science, features presentation on topics such as automata theory, computational geometry and theorem proving. It’s a highly competitive conference: according to the acceptance email Jahanjou received, out of 327 submissions received in 2015, just 89 were accepted. While the conference is usually held in a European city – most recently Copenhagen in 2014 and Riga in 2013 – this year, it was in Kyoto.

When it was time to decide which of the three authors would present the paper in Kyoto, Jahanjou was chosen. As the junior-most author, the conference would offer Jahanjou valuable exposure and networking opportunities, and his schedule could accommodate the trip to Japan from July 4 – July 10.

“I had the experience of going to a conference, but this was the first time I was presenting something,” he says. “People take you much more seriously. People come to you as opposed to you going to them.”

The paper Jahanjou presented outlines a new, more efficient way to reduce one problem to another. “If you say reduce Problem A to Problem B, that means that if you can solve Problem B, you can also solve Problem A,” he explains.

To prepare for his first presentation at a conference, he worked on perfecting a 20-minute talk with practice runs critiqued by his advisor, Professor Viola. And though he was nervous when he stood in front of his peers in Kyoto, the reception was overwhelmingly positive.

“I was able to talk to a number of researchers after my talk. They were interested and had further questions,” he says. “Based on the number of questions asked, I think it got people’s attention.”

Read the accepted paper here.