Doctoral Dissertation Award

The Principles of Distributed Computing Doctoral Dissertation Award was created in 2012 to acknowledge and promote outstanding research by doctoral (Ph.D.) students on the principles of distributed Computing.

Award-winning dissertations:

“Simple, Fast, Scalable, and Reliable Multiprocessor Algorithms” by Dr. Siddhartha Jayanti, supervised by Professor Julian Shun at MIT.

“Fast Distributed Algorithms via Sparsity Awareness” by Dr. Dean Leitersdorf supervised by Professor Keren Censor-Hillel at the Technion.


“Theoretical Foundations for Practical Concurrent and Distributed Computation” by Dr. Naama Ben-David, supervised by Professor Guy E. Blelloch at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Local Algorithms for Classic Graph Problems” by Dr. Manuela Fischer, supervised by Professor Mohsen Ghaffari at ETH Zurich.


“On the Space Complexity of Colourless Tasks” by Dr. Leqi Zhu, supervised by Professor Faith Ellen at the University of Toronto.

“Towards Universal Optimality in Distributed Optimization” by Dr. Goran Zuzic, supervised by Professor Bernhard Haeupler at Carnegie-Mellon University.


“Locality of Distributed Graph Problems” by Dr. Yi-Jun Chang, supervised by Professor Seth Pettie at the University of Michigan.

“The Power of Locality: Exploring the Limits of Randomness in Distributed Computing” by Dr. Yannic Maus, supervised by Professor Fabian Kuhn at the University of Freiburg.


“Combinatorial Optimization on Massive Datasets: Streaming, Distributed, and Massively Parallel Computation” by Dr. Sepehr Assadi, supervised by Professor Sanjeev Khanna at the University of Pennsylvania.


“On the Complexity of Synchronization” by Dr. Rati Gelashvili, supervised by Professor Nir Shavit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


“Improved Distributed Algorithms for Fundamental Graph Problems” by Dr. Mohsen Ghaffari, supervised by Professor Nancy Lynch at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


“Algorithms for Fundamental Problems in Computer Networks” by Dr. Hsin-Hao Su , supervised by Professor Seth Pettie at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“Practical Parallel Data Structures” by Dr. Shahar Timnat, supervised by Professor Erez Petrank at Technion.


“Efficient Network Utilization in Locality-Sensitive Distributed Algorithms” by Dr. Leonid Barenboim, supervised by Professor Michael Elkin at Ben Gurion University.


“Probabilistic Methods for Distributed Information Dissemination” by Dr. Bernhard Haeupler, supervised by Professors Jonathan Kelner, Muriel Médard, and David Karger at MIT.


“Fault-tolerant structures in graphs” by Dr. Shiri Chechik, supervised by Professor David Peleg at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2012.

“Graphs and geometric algorithms on distributed networks and databases” by Dr. Danupon Nanongkai, supervised by Profession Richard J. Lipton at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011.


“Probabilistic Methods in Distributed Computing” by Dr. Keren Censor-Hillel, supervised by Professor Hagit Attiya at the Technion in 2010.



To be eligible for the award in year X, a nominated dissertation must have been successfully defended in the period January 1st, X-2 through December 31st, X-1. If the advisor of the dissertation is in the core committee of year X (see below), it cannot be nominated in year X. In this case the eligibility period extends by one year, i.e., a dissertation successfully defended between January 1st, X-3 through December 31st, X-2 is eligible if and only if it was not eligible in either year X-1 or year X-2. The core committee of year X is disjoint from those of years X-1 and X-2. Each dissertation is thus eligible exactly twice. The dissertation must be in English: either originally written in English, or translated. The main topic of the dissertation must be on the principles of Distributed Computing. (For a possible indication of what it is meant by this term, see for example the Call for Papers of DISC and PODC.)

Nomination and Submission

A one-page nomination letter must be submitted by the thesis advisor. The nomination should highlight the dissertation’s contributions and justify why the dissertation is worthy of the award. Submission Checklist:

A nomination must include:

  1. Contact details (affiliation and email addresses) of the advisor and the doctoral student.
  2. A formal document from the student’s department/institution/organization verifying the date that the dissertation was successfully defended (a scanned version is acceptable for the submission, but the original document might be required at a later stage of the evaluation). If not indicated by the document, also state the period of time the student was enrolled in the doctoral program.
  3. A one page justification letter.
  4. The following four lists of work (co)authored by the candidate:
    • Publications that contain material from the thesis, detailing what material was taken from which part of the thesis and the parts that are not contained in the thesis.
    • Publications that are cited in the thesis, but do not contain material that also appears in the thesis.
    • Papers currently under review, including journal submissions of previously published work, that contain material from the thesis, detailing what material was taken from which part of the thesis and the parts that are not contained in the thesis.
    • Those parts of the thesis which are not included in the other lists.
  5. A list of awards the student received for the thesis and/or publications related to the thesis.
  6. One copy of the dissertation in electronic form (preferably in pdf).
  7. A separate copy of the abstract in electronic form (either as pdf or plain text).

Award Committee and Review Process

The committee will consist of four core members and a number of ad-hoc members, selected as described below. The review process will consist of two stages:

The first selection phase, carried out by the core members, will be based on the nomination letters and publication lists. At the end of this phase, a short list of dissertations to be considered in the second round will be compiled.

Based on the short list, the four core members will identify experts on the topics of the dissertations and invite them to serve as additional (ad hoc) members of the committee. The committee should include sufficiently many members to allow each dissertation to be reviewed by three members without requiring any member to review more than two dissertations.

For an award year X, the four core members will by default be the following:

The PC Chair of DISC in year X-9.
The PC Chair of PODC in year X-9.
The PC Chair of DISC in year X-1.
The PC Chair of PODC in year X-1.

The committee chair will alternate between DISC and PODC PC chairs of year X-9. Specifically, when X is even, the chair will be the DISC PC chair of X-9 and when X is odd, the chair will be the PODC PC chair of X-9.

Members of the committees in years X-1 and X-2 are not eligible for participation in the committee for year X. If a core committee cannot be established (for this or any other reason), the corresponding Steering Committee of the award year nominates a person to work on behalf of the missing DISC/PODC PC chair.

Evaluation Criteria

The nominated dissertations will be reviewed for technical depth and significance of the research contributions in the area of Distributed Computing, potential impact on theory and practice, and quality of presentation/writing, including thoroughness of description of related work and understandability of algorithms and proofs.


The award presentation will alternate between DISC (even years) and PODC (odd years).
The winning dissertation will receive a plaque and a monetary prize.
The committee reserves the right to split or decline to give the award.
The committee can give Honorable Mentions to up to two non-winning dissertations meriting special recognition (or one Honorable Mention in case the award is split).