Torontonian Wins Canada’s Top Science Prize for Computational Complexity Research

Stephen Cook has won Canada’s top annual science prize for his research on computational complexity and proof complexity.

The Toronto researcher, whose expertise lies in theoretical computer science and mathematics that involve figuring out how much time and memory it will take computers to solve different types of problems, won this year’s Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. The award is for a lot more than mere bragging rights: it comes with $1 million in research funding over the next five years.

One area Cook is researching is data encryption. He says that information is encrypted as it passes between a computer and a company’s server, but that encrypted data is publicly visible and interceptible. The assumption is that the encryption is “computationally intractable.” However, Cook suggests this may not be the case. The encryption could be solvable. And if it is, Cook will likely be the one to solve it.

Cook received the medal from Governor General David Johnston at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon.

Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council says Cook’s work is “now among the most essential theoretical results that all computer science graduates must understand.”