PhD student Nikos Zarifis earns 2024 Ivanisevic Award

Nikos Zarifis

PhD candidate Nikos Zarifis, the 2024 recipient of the Invanisevic Award, came to UW-Madison because it is “one of the top schools in the country,” he says, and he specifically wanted “to be a part of my advisor’s, Professor Ilias Diakonikolas’, group. I felt that with his advising I would develop academically and produce meaningful research, and I am very lucky to be a part of his team.”

The Ivanisevic Award was created by two UW-Madison alumni, Drs. Igor and Albena Ivanisevic, who earned PhDs in Computer Sciences and Chemistry, respectively. The award was originally granted to CS and Chemistry students in alternating years, but now the award will be given to PhD students who are writing their dissertations in each department annually.

“We wanted to pay forward UW for the happy times we had as doctoral students, and we know firsthand that getting support for students is one of the biggest challenges for any department,” said Igor Ivanisevic. He continued that he and Albena hope that the award will allow recipients to “worry less about finances and more about education and research.”

Zarifis believes this will be true for him, saying that the award will “lift a financial burden and help me focus on my research even more.” In addition to the financial advantage, he says that the award is also important to him because it recognizes and appreciates his research efforts. And for PhD students in the department in general, it “fosters a positive environment, encouraging students to continue their impactful work.”

Zarifis’s research “focuses on the Foundations of Machine Learning.” His goal is “to design efficient algorithms for central problems in machine learning. At the same time, I’m interested in leveraging theoretical  insights to design more reliable practical methods to improve the performance of machine learning systems.”

After completing his undergraduate diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the National Technical University of Athens, Zarifis was accepted at UW-Madison and attended graduate student welcome weekend. He says, “I was captivated by the nature and the beauty of Madison. I believe that Madison is an ideal place for both personal and professional fulfillment.”