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Understanding the inexplicable in AI gave Stefan the award

Stefan Neumann, postdoc in TCS, wins Heinz Zemanek Award

Stefan Neumann KTH
Published Jun 16, 2022

Research on understanding the inexplicable reason why AI works so well gave Stefan Neumann, a postdoc in the division of Theoretical Computer Science, the Heinz Zemanek Award. The award is granted biannually for excellent degree dissertations in informatics and related areas.

Who is Heinz Zemanek?

Heinz Zemanek was an Austrian computer pioneer who led the development of one of the first complete transistorised computers on the European continent. The computer was nicknamed Mailüfterl — Viennese for "May breeze" — in reference to Whirlwind.

In the last few years, we have seen a lot of progress in data science and artificial intelligence. Just think of using Google Translate ten years ago and using it today—it’s such a big difference. But we still do not have a theoretical explanation for many of these practical success stories. 

”My goal is to bridge this gap by providing a better understanding of the foundations of data science. My work offers insights into why product recommendation systems, for example, on Amazon, work so well and why algorithms that optimize the network traffic inside data centers are so successful in practice. “ Stefan says.

Among many impressive researchers and previous winners, Stefan took home the award.

” I think the jury appreciated that I am trying to connect different areas. Bringing together theory and practice with algorithms and data science. “

Inspired by fellow KTH researchers

Throughout my studies, I have been inspired by the works of many fantastic KTH researchers, like Johan Håstad, Alexandre Proutiere, and Aristides Gionis.

“When I had the opportunity to join KTH, it was immediately clear to me that I wanted to come here.”

For Stefan, the award is not only a token of excellent research but a receipt that teamwork makes the dream work.

” I view the award as a motivation to keep working on complex problems and provide other people with the support I received throughout my studies.”

But the postdoc life is not always sunshine and rainbows. 

“After banging your head against the wall with a problem for weeks or months, it is such an amazing feeling when you finally solve a problem.”

But the answer is different when asked what the most rewarding aspect of being an KTH postdoc is.

“The most rewarding aspect of being a postdoc is definitely working with people from all over the world. I have made so many friends over the years and I would hate to miss it.”