SIAM News Blog

Prize Spotlight: Éva Tardos

Éva Tardos of Cornell University is the recipient of the 2018 AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture prize. The lecture is awarded every year by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and SIAM at the SIAM Annual Meeting. The award highlights significant contributions of women to applied or computational mathematics.

Éva Tardos

The award recognizes Tardos for her distinguished scientific contributions to the efficient methods for combinatorial optimization problems on graphs and networks, and for her work on issues at the interface of computing and economics. She received the award at the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting, held July 9-13, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. Tardos delivered the 2018 AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture, “Learning and Efficiency of Outcomes in Games,” on July 9, 2018.

Éva Tardos is a Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University and served as chair of the Computer Science Department from 2006 to 2010. She received her BA and PhD from Eötvös University in Budapest. She joined the faculty at Cornell University in 1989. Her research interest is algorithms and algorithmic game theory. She is most known for her work on network-flow algorithms and quantifying the efficiency of selfish routing. 

Tardos has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. She is the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards including the Packard Fellowship, Gödel Prize, Dantzig Prize, Fulkerson Prize, EATCS Award, and IEEE Technical Achievement Award. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the ACM, has been Editor-in-Chief of SIAM Journal on Computing, and editor of several other journals including Combinatorica. She has served as program committee member for many conferences, and as program committee chair for the ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (1996), as well as FOCS 2005, and EC13. Tardos is a Fellow of SIAM.

Q: Why are you excited about being awarded the AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture?

A: It is great to get the opportunity to talk to the broad SIAM audience about my research. It is a special honor to be named the Sonia Kovalevsky Lecturer. I read her biography as a teenager, and this was my first encounter with issues that women face in doing science. 

Q: Could you tell us about the research that won you the prize?

A: For the last 15 years, I have been working at the interface of computer science and economics. As computer networks around the world share resources and affect each other, we need to understand how simple protocols can help us get the best use out of the resources. A simple example of such interaction is in packet routing. As a router sends packets along some path to its destination, the packet stream also creates congestion on the routers on its way, and slows down other packets. This interaction can be modeled as a game (where the routers are the players, each aiming to send their packets along the most efficient path). Braess’s paradox is a classic example showing that each router separately optimizing can lead to a less-than-optimal outcome. A similar example comes from the advertisement auctions used to sell targeted ads on the Web. Our work quantifies the resulting inefficiency, and extends the setting to include networks with dynamically changing traffic patterns.

Eva Tardos (center) of Cornell University received her plaque for the AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture from SIAM President Nick Higham (left) and AWM President Ami Radunskaya at the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting.

Q: What does your research mean to the public?

A: Attempting to send internet packets or decide on advertisements to optimize an overall performance measure is clearly not practical: in a complex network with ever-changing traffic patterns, we need simple protocols that routers can implement with limited information. This can cause some inefficiency in routing, but allows routers to make decisions at high speeds. A similar tradeoff is also present in serving ads on the Web. Quantifying the resulting inefficiency is important to help designers make choices between possible alternate protocols.

Q: What does being a SIAM member mean to you?

A: SIAM has been a great promoter of the interface of mathematics and its applications. SIAM Journal on Computing is one of the two leading journals that play a central role in my scientific community.

Learn more about the AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecture.

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