Antonia Wachter-Zeh

Associate Professorship of Coding and Cryptography,
Technical University of Munich

Antonia has been Head of the Coding and Cryptography (COD) group at TUM since 2021. She is a recipient of an ERC Starting Grant and the DFG Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Preis. Her main research interests are coding theory, post-quantum cryptography (code- and lattice-based), efficient algorithms, security, privacy, and applying error-correcting codes to communications, security, and storage in general, in particular to coded computing, DNA storage, network coding, non-volatile memories, distributed data storage, machine learning, and physical unclonable functions.

In 2009, Antonia completed an MSc degree in electrical engineering at Ulm University. She received her PhD in 2013 from Ulm University and from the University of Rennes 1, France. From 2013 to 2016, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Computer Science Department of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. From 2016 to 2020, Antonia was a Rudolf Mößbauer Tenure Track Assistant Professor at TUM and a fellow at the TUM Institute for Advanced Studies.

3 questions to Antonia Wachter-Zeh

What do you appreciate most about working at your university and/or your department?

TUM ranks among Europe’s best universities in terms of research and innovation. This fact attracts not only excellent students but also makes it easy to invite international cutting-edge researchers as guests to my group. What I also appreciate about TUM and the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (soon the School of Computation, Information and Technology) is the freedom that I have regarding research topics, research funding, collaborations, and every-day administration aspects. Therefore, I could create an inspiring unique research atmosphere in my group with frequent guest researchers and close collaborations to the Technion, Chalmers University, Imperial College London, Eindhoven University (and others) as well as to innovative industry partners.

Which topic could you talk about for hours?

I could talk very long about research, in particular coding theory and applications. Coding theory is an “old” topic whose basics were laid in the 1940s and its basic mathematical principles seem rather simple at the first glance. However, there is a tremendous need to develop tailored coding-theory solutions to our modern digital challenges: cloud data storage, novel storage methods such as storing data in DNA, developing encryption schemes that are resilient against quantum-computer attacks, distributing tasks in machine learning… While these areas are seemingly unconnected, coding theory provides a joint basis for tackling many of these enormous challenges.

I also really enjoy teaching in presence where I clearly have to talk for hours. In-presence (or hybrid) teaching is truly great after two years of mostly only teaching. Currently, I am teaching a 400-students mandatory Bachelor’s course on communications engineering. The students in this course are in their fourth semester – the current one is their first real presence semester at university! They are very excited and so am I. Despite being such a large course, inspiring questions and discussions come up in every lecture. However, (even though this has not so much to do with the question) I want to add that all the knowledge about digital teaching that universities acquired now should not get lost. I therefore use hybrid formats and blended learning in my courses. This makes the talking for hours even more enjoyable.

What project or endeavour are you looking forward to?

I am really curious how the research on post-quantum cryptography develops. Currently, there is a cryptographic competition by the NIST running with the goal to standardize quantum-computer-resilient cryptography. It will be exciting to see how the standardization process and future ideas for such systems develop, considering clearly the development of quantum computers. We are eagerly contributing to the development of post-quantum secure cryptographic schemes.

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