Three CWI researchers awarded with Veni grant from NWO

Three talented CWI researchers received a Veni grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to develop their own research over the next three years. They focus on topics varying from quantum-safe cryptography to random quantum circuits and partition functions of large-degree networks.

Publication date
3 Aug 2023

Veni is an individual science grant, part of the NWO Talent Programme, and aimed at researchers who have recently obtained their PhDs. Grants from this programme give researchers the freedom to pursue their own research based on creativity and passion. This kind of curiosity-driven research contributes to and prepares us for tomorrow's society.

The laureates and their research

Lisa Kohl: ‘Low-complexity cryptography: bridging the gap between theory and practice’

With her grant Lisa Kohl will explore new ways to develop protocols for quantum-safe privacy-preserving data processing.

One of the main challenges cryptography has to deal with today is the protection of private data in an era in which gathering and selling data has become a lucrative business. The move towards end-to-end encrypted communication and the reliance on legislative measures such as GDPR are not sufficient to ensure this data privacy in the digital age: once data is given out of hand, it can be stored, shared and misused. The difficulty in designing protocols for privacy-preserving data processing lies in the fact that the data has to remain fully private while the external data processing takes place. This typically results in large efficiency overheads, limiting the usability of privacy-preserving techniques in practice.

Additionally, cryptography faces the threat of a large-scale quantum computer which would break much of currently deployed cryptography, compromising all data privacy. To overcome these issues, Lisa Kohl’s research project will build on cryptography that uses simple mathematical structures which have the potential to provide long-term privacy guarantees while at the same time supporting data processing at low cost.

About Lisa Kohl

Lisa Kohl is a Tenure-Track researcher at CWI's Cryptology group. She received her PhD (Summa Cum Laude) from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, in 2019 for her thesis ‘On Improving Communication Complexity in Cryptography’.

Jonas Helsen: 'Random quantum circuits: theory and applications for quantum computers'

Short random circuits (tiny quantum computer programs built by dice roll), are an essential testing tool for near-term quantum computers. They also model interesting physics such as quantum chaos.

Unfortunately their properties are not very well understood mathematically. In this project Jonas Helsen aims to rigorously understand such circuits. The knowledge gained from this research will be applied to building new quantum computers and understanding physics.

Helsen will be examining short random circuits by combining time tested tools from mathematical physics with techniques from the field of quantum information theory.

About Jonas Helsen

Jonas Helsen is a Tenure-Track researcher at CWI's Algorithms and Complexity group and Qusoft. His doctoral thesis is titled 'Quantum information in the real world: Diagnosing and correcting errors in practical quantum devices', for which he received his PhD (Cum Laude) in 2019 at Delft University of Technology.

Ferenc Bencs: 'Partition functions of large-degree networks'

The partition function is an important tool in the investigation of interacting systems in statistical physics, with high impact in the field of network science, combinatorics, and probability theory.

In his project, Bencs will investigate properties of partition functions related to various combinatorial objects by using a novel technique for networks with large maximum degree. A better understanding of the zero distributions is expected to shed new lights on the number of proper colorings of graphs, and on the properties and evaluations of partition functions of some statistical physical models.

About Ferenc Bencs

Ferenc Bencs wrote his Veni-application while working at the University of Amsterdam and is now joining CWI's Networks and Optimization group where he resumes his research. He received his PhD from Central European University (Budapest, Hungary) in 2020 for his thesis 'Graphs, groups and measures'.

Former CWI colleague Rianne de Heide (VU) also won a Veni grant in this round. She did her PhD research at CWI from 2016-2020.

Talent programme

Veni is part of NWO’s Talent Programme. NWO selects researchers based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative character of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge use. The funding of 280,000 euros allows them to conduct independent research and develop their ideas for three years.