Press Release No. 12 | April 21, 2020

Copernicus Award 2020 for Outstanding German-Polish Collaboration in Cryptography

DFG and Polish FNP honour researchers from Darmstadt and Warsaw

DFG and Polish FNP honour researchers from Darmstadt and Warsaw

Professor Dr. Sebastian Faust, TU Darmstadt, and Professor Dr. Stefan Dziembowski, University of Warsaw, have been selected to receive the 2020 Copernicus Award from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP, Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej) for their services to German-Polish research collaboration. The jury appointed by the DFG and the FNP chose the two researchers for their outstanding cooperation in theoretical cryptography and IT security. Their joint research on the mathematical foundations of encryption techniques has significantly contributed towards making the use of information technologies and the associated data transfer process more secure against attack and more efficient at the same time. The vital contribution of their work, in the jury's view, lies in the way they bring different security models together.

Faust and Dziembowski have been collaborating for approximately ten years, since they first met at a specialist conference. This long-standing partnership has resulted in a large number of publications. One key area of their joint research is the development and analysis of countermeasures to protect against side-channel attacks, which use the power consumption of a smart card, for example, to attack IT security systems. In 2014, the pair received the Best Paper Award from the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) at the international conference EUROCRYPT for their work on harmonising theoretical and practical security models for side-channel attacks. Another focus of their joint research is blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies. Their collaborative work on proof-of-work mechanisms has also attracted a lot of attention, potentially contributing to making virtual currencies like Bitcoin much more energy-efficient. Their research work, in which they often incorporate early career researchers, has met with considerable resonance in the scientific community and has influenced professional practice in the use of information technologies. Sebastian Faust and Stefan Dziembowski intend to continue their collaboration in the years ahead.

Sebastian Faust is a professor at TU Darmstadt, where he heads the department of Applied Cryptography. After earning his doctorate at KU Leuven in Belgium, Faust conducted postdoctoral research at Aarhus University in Denmark, followed by a Marie Curie fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. He then returned to Germany to take up a post as assistant professor at the University of Bochum. It was here, as the leader of an Emmy Noether independent junior research group, that he began a research project on "Cryptography Beyond the Black Box Model". His main research interests are cryptography and IT security.

Stefan Dziembowski is a professor at the University of Warsaw, where he leads the Cryptography and Blockchain Technologies working group. He earned his doctorate from Aarhus University in Denmark. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research at ETH Zurich, the Italian National Research Council in Pisa and the Sapienza University of Rome, before moving to the University of Warsaw in 2010. Dziembowski has held a number of fellowships, including the generous Starting Grant and an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) and a Welcome Grant and Team Grant from the Foundation for Polish Science. Stefan Dziembowski's research interests are cryptography, blockchain technology and smart contracts.

The two cryptographers are the eighth pair to receive the Copernicus Award from the DFG and the FNP. Since 2006, the €200,000 award has been presented every two years to two researchers, one from Germany and one from Poland. It takes its name from the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) and is intended to symbolise the close research collaboration between the countries. The prize money is financed by the DFG and the FNP in equal shares and is divided evenly between the two prizewinners, who may use it for any scientific purpose within the scope of the funding programmes of both organisations. Priority should be given to jointly supporting early career researchers.

Founded in 1991, the FNP is an independent and financially autonomous not-for-profit non-governmental organisation in Poland whose purpose is to fund research. Since 2005, it has had a cooperation agreement with the DFG, which includes the joint awarding of the Copernicus Award. The 2020 Copernicus Award will be presented by DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker and FNP President Professor Dr. Maciej Żylicz during the course of this year in Warsaw.

Further Information

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