Anniversary Special: Programmer of the Year 2010 – 2011

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Welcome to the 2010 – 2011 Programmer of the Year blog post.

CodeChef has completed 2 years now and we’d like to thank everyone for making it so successful. Someone that we would love to highlight this month is Zac Friggstad for his invaluable and continuous contribution to CodeChef as a Problem Setter, Tester and Moderator.

Zac has been on our problem setting panel since the beginning of last year and has been doing a fantastic job for us at CodeChef.

Lets take a look at his contributions in all our contest last year:

Since April 2010, Zac has been part of our contest moderation panel every single month. In this duration he has acted as a problem tester 4 times, set 8 challenge problems and 12 other long contests problems and has been the author for our CookOffs 3 times already!

Zac has been our specialist in setting the Challenge problem for a while now, and though he’s never participated in our programming contests, we would like to bestow the title of Programmer of the Year for 2010-2011. On behalf of CodeChef, we’d like to thank Zac, for all the contributions he has made to the programming community so far and hope he continues to do so. ¬†ūüôā

Here’s more from the programmer of the Year himself:

Name:  Zachary Friggstad
Age:  28
Institute:  The University of Alberta

Brief introduction about yourself:

I’m currently in the 4th year of my PhD studies at the U of Alberta where I study the theory behind efficient algorithms for combinatorial optimization problems. Most of the problems I study are NP-hard so I focus mainly on approximation algorithms. I also enjoy pure mathematics; I almost chose to do my graduate studies in mathematics instead of CS. A few very helpful professors showed me how even advanced tools from mathematics can be used to study algorithms and the theory of computing, so I started a graduate degree in theoretical computing science instead. I am also one of the coaches for our ACM
ICPC team at the U of Alberta and I’m proud to say that we have qualified for the World Finals once again!

The other major part of my life is my family. I have been married to Jenne for almost 7 years now and we now have two boys named Gabriel (3 years) and Lucas (6 months).

How/When did you start programming?

I learned BASIC at school when I was 15 years old. My school was small and we didn’t have any teachers who knew how to instruct the course, so I had to take it by correspondence under the supervision of a¬†teacher at a distant school. For the most part, this consisted of me reading through his course notes and occasionally meeting via ICQ.

What do you do when you’re not programming?

If I’m at home, I’m either playing board/card games with my wife, playing with my boys, watching a movie or playing video games. I’ve also been known to read about interesting topics in algebra, topology,¬†and number theory that I don’t encounter often in my everyday research. Our favourite family vacation is to go tenting on a warm and sunny weekend and I also like playing volleyball and badminton when I¬†get the chance.

What do you like most about CodeChef?

The ability to set problems that can’t appear in the normal ACM-style competition. I enjoy creating very hard problems that are still feasible in the CodeChef setting, but require a fair amount of thinking and maybe even some research to solve. I also like the tie breaking problems as they give me a chance to present optimization problems I’ve encountered in research literature in a more concrete setting.

How many hours a day do you program?

Apart from CodeChef, probably less than one hour since most of my research is theoretical. This definitely increases when I’m preparing problems for a contest.

If you could eat dinner with any famous person (past or present), who would it be and what dish would you have?

I would eat sushi with Paul Erdos.

What is the secret to being a good programmer?

Practice is the key, but you have to know where to look. Try hard problems and don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time learning new algorithms. Always be on the lookout to learn new things. Also, random bits can be your friends ūüôā

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to graduate either this year or next. Ultimately, I am looking to settle at a university as a professor with both research and teaching responsibilities. Hopefully this also includes involvement in a programming contest club too! However, I expect that I will be a postdoctoral researcher for a while after I graduate since there aren’t many openings these days.

Harsh Munshaw
Team CodeChef

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