Meet Aastha Mehta in this Q&A series with 6 out of 200 computer scientists and mathematicians participating at the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, September 18-23, 2016. 22 Laureates (Abel Prize, Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize, and ACM Turing Award) will attend the forum together with them. For a full week, Heidelberg in Germany will be the hot spot of mathematics and computer science.
What is your name and where are you from? I am Aastha Mehta from India
Where did you study and where are you currently based? I completed my bachelors in computer science from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani in India. I am now based in Saarbruecken, Germany.
What is your current position? I am a PhD student at Max Planck Institute for Software Systems
What is the focus of your research? Have you noticed, that when you search for something on Google or Bing, the search results include not only public data, but also your private data, such as your emails or flight information? What if the search engine accidentally shared your private data with somebody else? Web services such as search engines, and social networks are very complex, and often suffer from such data leaks. My recent work enables web service providers to protect confidentiality of the data used in the services. The confidentiality “policies” may come from the clients (end-users of the services), the providers themselves, or the local jurisdiction. I have been designing various “policy compliance” systems, which provide a framework to specify such policies concisely, and a mechanism to enforce them systematically and efficiently.
Why did you become a computer scientist? Computer science has been a very popular field in the recent years. I was interested in mathematics and engineering, and decided to try out computer science. I do not regret my choice!
What are you doing besides research? I love dancing. I am trained in Bharatanatyam, one of the eight Indian classical dance forms. In my free time, I practice my dance. I have participated in Indian cultural evenings hosted at my university, where I have enjoyed choreographing and teaching Indian dance to my non-Indian friends. I have also explored a bit of standard and latin dances.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? I am interested in pursuing a career in academic research, and continue my dancing!
Why did you apply for the HLF? I have heard a lot about HLF from some of my colleagues who attended the forum earlier. HLF provides an excellent platform to meet with eminent computer scientists and mathematicians, and socialize over a broad range of research topics. I want to attend HLF to hear about the exciting research being carried out in different areas, and understand how the different areas interact and influence each other.
What do you expect from this meeting? As a systems researcher, I have observed that theoretical ideas and results are increasingly being used in practical, real-world systems. Through interactions with researchers at HLF, I would like to explore new ideas for building systems.
Which laureates present at the forum would you really like to talk to? Barbara Liskov has made several fundamental contributions in multiple areas of computer systems. Some of her recent work is also related to my current research, and I would be interested in meeting her. Although I am not related with Mathematics, I am greatly inspired by Manjul Bhargava, and would like to meet him as well.