Nikhil Lalit Vanjani, who just received an M.S. in Information Security from CMU’s Information Networking Institute (INI), received an Outstanding Student Service Award for a Research Assistant at last month’s INI commencement.
“I suggested a project to Nikhil related to multi-client functional encryption, and he took charge and became the driving force behind it,” says CyLab’s Elaine Shi, who served as Vanjani’s research advisor. “Nikhil is a superstar, and a one-in-ten-years master’s student for our master programs.”
Vanjani’s research focused on functional encryption—the ability to perform calculations on encrypted data without decrypting it—a useful tool in a variety of different scenarios. For example, if a doctor wants to know the average age of patients in their hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19, they could use functional encryption to run that calculation on encrypted health data to calculate the average age of positive Covid patients, all without ever seeing a single decrypted health record.
Nikhil is a superstar, and a one-in-ten-years master’s student for our master programs.Elaine Shi, Professor, Computer Science Department, Electrical and Computer Engineering
But Vanjani’s research goes one step further.
“Multi-client functional encryption tries to enable this in distributed settings in which someone wants to perform calculations on encrypted data belonging to multiple clients,” says Vanjani.
Vanjani describes another example scenario, in which a public health agency wants to calculate the average age of patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 in a county, and based on that, update their guidance for the residents of the county. They can accomplish this by collaborating with multiple hospitals in the county. While this calculation is simple and public, an organization may want to perform more complex and proprietary calculations on such data.
My ambition is to develop cryptographic tools to build technology that can be trusted.Nikhil Vanjani, Ph.D. student, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Our work provides a way to enable such applications,” Vanjani says.
Vanjani is now continuing his research as a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and will continue to work with Shi.
“My ambition is to develop cryptographic tools to build technology that can be trusted,” Vanjani says.