Q&A with Vijay Ramachandran, associate professor of computer science

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Vijay Ramachandran
, associate professor of computer science, simplifies his complicated work in an intriguing way.

Your specialties include algorithms and data structures. Why do these areas interest you?
These fields are about building tools and techniques for efficient problem solving. Research from these fields is relevant to many different applications, and the results are often beautiful and practical at the same time. For example, in class, we discuss a simple technique that can be applied to ordering topics in a textbook or to crawling the World Wide Web. In my research, I’ve used insights from work on conducting efficient, truthful auctions and applied them to Internet security. The work is a mix of mathematical modeling, logical reasoning, and being able to relate abstract ideas to the real world — what’s not to love?

What is the goal of your research in Internet routing?
Just as there are different sets of roads that take you from Hamilton to New York City, there are multiple routes that a message on the Internet can take to get from its origin to its destination. Internet routing is the task of determining which route should be used in which situation. The Internet is a global network made up of various parts, which are managed by different companies and institutions. My research has focused on interdomain routing, which attempts to establish routes between these various parts, taking into account the different concerns and priorities of the different managing entities. Routing methods have evolved over time, based on ideas from different companies, different pieces of research, and different experts. Without a good mathematical model, it’s hard to analyze whether a particular routing method achieves good results. My goal has been to work on such a model and use it to develop better routing techniques.

Computer science at Colgate
Colgate professional network focuses on technology

Now that you and President Jeffrey Herbst have developed and co-taught a course called Technology and Disruption, what’s next?
We both remain interested in the broader societal and economic changes induced by technology and are committed to helping Colgate students who are interested in pursuing careers in or related to the technology sector. This semester, he and I are leading some informal discussions about technology and disruption issues for students who will be working in the technology area.

Where were you before coming to Colgate?
I did my undergraduate studies at Princeton, where I was a math major, then went to Yale for my PhD in computer science, and finally worked as a postdoctoral associate in Berkeley, California, and in Hoboken, New Jersey, before coming to Colgate.

We heard you enjoy long-distance running. Where do you run?
The Hamilton area is a great place to run because it’s never too hot, the roads are never busy, and it’s a bit hilly, which is great for training. I live near Lake Moraine, and I enjoy running routes around the lake.

You and your wife enjoy cooking. Do you have a favorite dish or food you like to prepare?
We’re ‘samplers’ when it comes to food. That’s true when we go out to eat or when we cook at home. My wife is great at finding interesting recipes from many different styles of cuisine, and we like the variation of trying them all. We pick things that work seasonally, and we have a garden, so we make good use of the vegetables we grow. We’re often ready to experiment with anything.