Christos Tzamos comes to UW-Madison researching algorithms and machine learning theory

Christos TzamosBy Maeve Ryan

Christos Tzamos, who joined the Department of Computer Sciences faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall of 2018, plans to continue research from his postdoctoral studies concerning Mechanism Design, Algorithms, and Machine Learning.

Tzamos comes to UW from a post-doc at Microsoft Research New England. He grew up in Athens, Greece and completed his undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens. Tzamos went on to earn a PhD at MIT advised by Professor Constantinos Daskalakis. His PhD thesis on Mechanism Design was recognized with a 2017 George M. Sprowls Award for Best PhD Thesis in Computer Science.

Tzamos hopes his teaching emboldens students and their critical thinking efforts. “I try to show my students that every concept, no matter how difficult, can be broken down so it’s simple to understand,” Tzamos says. “If they structure their thinking and proceed in steps, they can tackle even the hardest problems.”

This spring Tzamos is excited to be teaching CS 880: Topics in Theoretical Computer Science: “This class explores theoretical topics in algorithmic game theory and machine learning. Broadly the goal of the class is to explore algorithm design questions when the inputs to the algorithm are given by strategic agents.” Tzamos explains, “Such questions arise in a variety of settings including advertisement auctions, voting systems, crowd-sourcing, ride-sharing, cryptocurrencies and so on. We aim to design schemes that incentivize agents either by payments or by choosing appropriate socially desirable outcomes. This requires understanding the preferences of the agents. As it is impossible in many cases to obtain good outcomes without any knowledge of these preferences a priori, we explore how one can get improved schemes given access to past data.”

Tzamos says that the class “builds the necessary background to study a wide range of different settings, and students will explore the directions they are most interested in through a class project.” He continues, “I am very excited to see their work!”

Along with teaching, Tzamos is a graduate advisor for the first time. “That’s a change for me; usually I feel like I’m the youngest in all my collaborations, but now it’s going to be great to work and interact with students.” He is advising two students and has written a paper with each of them that are currently under submission.

In his free time, Tzamos likes to play guitar and make things through 3d printing and laser cutting.