Barna Saha came to Berkeley in 2019 from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering & Operations Research. She received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists & Engineers (2019), Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2019), and National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2017).
“With today's data deluge, designing algorithms is ever more challenging… The area is ripe and now is the right time to innovate in this space.”
Research Focus: Computer algorithms and probabilistic methods
How is this applied in the world?
Many people say that in data analysis projects, a significant portion of the time is spent cleaning data prior to analysis. Names of a single real-world entity can be varied. For instance, “UC Berkeley” and “University of California at Berkeley” and “Cal” all refer to the same entity. Names can also be ambiguous: the simple name “Berkeley” might refer to UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College, the City of Berkeley, or a British philosopher. I develop algorithms for resolving these ambiguities.
Why is this area important to you?
The area that I work on is often referred to as "fine-grained algorithm design." With today's data deluge, designing algorithms is ever more challenging. We are stressed with time complexity, space complexity, how to incorporate changing data with fast update time, etc. and all when the underlying data can be really noisy. The problems that were known to be efficiently solvable (think about a running time that is quadratic in the data size) is no longer efficient. The fine-grained algorithm design attempts to understand the intricate trade-offs between algorithmic efficiency and the quality of a solution. We have developed principled techniques that are widely applicable to many problems with applications ranging from analyzing genome sequences to data cleaning. These have resulted in improving the efficiency of long-standing problems. The area is ripe and now is the right time to innovate in this space.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am a co-founder of the Theoretical Computer Science Women (TCS Women) organization. With an eye towards bridging the gender inequality in Theoretical Computer Science, we are providing scholarships to women students to attend flagship conferences. We organize various technical and non-technical network building events for women researchers. Come, join us in our mission!