Hall of Fame of ICPC: prof. Krzysztof Diks from Poland

. SProf. Krzysztof Diks with prof. Jan Madey created a system for educating IT talents at the University of Warsaw, Poland. As a result, the UW is the only university in the world to continuously qualify for the ICPC finals since 1994. It won 5 gold, 6 silver, and 4 bronze medals, winning in ICPC 2003 and ICPC 2007 and taking 2nd place in ICPC 2012 and ICPC 2017.

Prof. Krzysztof Diks was a student of prof. Madey, and immediately after graduation, started working at the University of Warsaw, Poland. Initially, they were not in close contact with each other. The situation changed when prof. Diks went on a scholarship to Canada. Prof. Madey used to come there for research during the summer holidays with his best students from UW. One must say here that the scientific interests of the two professors were entirely different, and they did not cooperate in the field of science.

Friendship

Their joint stay in Canada allowed them to get to know each other on a social basis. When prof. Krzysztof Diks returned to Poland in 1994, prof. Madey involved him in the organizational work at the Institute of Informatics. He entrusted him with the position of deputy director for teaching and recommending him to the OI Main Committee. From that moment on, OI became Professor Diks’s passion. He became the chairman of the Main Committee in 1999 and was the team leader of the Polish representation at the IOI. He was also the author of many Olympic tasks. His advantage was and still is perfect contact with young people. Nearly 2,000 people passed through OI and won over 40 gold medals at the IOI. Twice young Poles became winners of the IOI – in 2006 (Filip Wolski) and 2007 (Tomasz Kulczyński).

UW wins the ICPC 2007 finals in Tokyo. From the left: prof. Bill Poucher (president of the ICPC Foundation), Filip Wolski, Marcin Pilipczuk, Marek Cygan, prof. Jan Madey, prof. Krzysztof Diks

Coach and co-coach

When Polish students began to take part in the ICPC, prof. Madey quickly concluded that the qualifiers for it should be the ICPC Polish Collegiate Programming Contest (PCPC). First it was organized by the Poznan University of Technology. Then by the UW, with prof. Diks in charge. Since then, the cooperation between Prof. Madey and Prof. Diks has become very close. Prof. Diks acted as the “co-coach” of the UW team for the ICPC, which resulted in many successes. During the ICPC 2019 finals in Porto, prof. Madey officially announced that he was stepping down from leading the UW teams. And prof. Diks became their natural coach.

Sharing responsibility

Initially, professor Madey organized the training of young talents on his own. Then he handed over these responsibilities to prof. Diks. He dealt with the organizational side of trips to the competition in terms of logistics and finance. It was a good combination. The best result of the UW before was 9th place and the bronze medal in ICPC 1998. During his tenure, an uninterrupted streak of success began with 6th place and a silver medal in ICPC 2001. The same team, but with a slightly changed line-up, improved to 1st place and a gold medal in ICPC 2003.

Over time, previous medalists joined the training process. It resulted in the fact that at PCPC, UW could send not 3 teams but 6. The popularity of the UW’s power in this area grew. So it was necessary to organize internal eliminations to ICPC because everyone wanted to participate in it. In 2019, 21 teams of 3 people took part in them, and this is a total of 63 students. The system is effective because its most essential elements are the former medalists of the ICPC finals. They give their younger colleagues what they previously received.

ICPC vs. IOI

It has happened more than once that first-year students have advanced to the ICPC finals. Without the OI, IOI, and prof. Diks’ intense involvement in them it would not have been possible. An excellent example of this is Filip Wolski. He won the IOI 2006, already in his first year of study. Then he powered the UW team that won first place at the ICPC 2007 in Tokyo. These achievements culminated in prof. Diks being entrusted with crucial roles in organizing world-class events in Poland. The IOI 2005 in Nowy Sacz, and ICPC 2012 finals in Warsaw.

IT education

Prof. Krzysztof Diks has also been involved in computer science education in Poland for years. Both at the academic and school levels. He is co-author of the computer science education standards and the computer science curriculum at the UW. He also headed a project to create a portal with electronic teaching materials for first- and second-level computer science studies. It involved nearly 500 employees from 4 universities. The webpage Wazniak with materials is open and is very popular among students recording thousands of appeals daily.

He is also the initiator of the first online programming competition – Algorithmic Conquerors. It is now held annually under the name Algorithmic Skirmish, enjoying great popularity. Several thousand participants, tens of thousands of appeals to the competition site daily, challenging and educational tasks.

Papers

Despite such a wide range of responsibilities, Prof. Diks finds time to write scientific papers. For example:

  • in the broad field of algorithmics (60),
  • academic textbooks (co-author of Algorithms and Data Structures),
  • and translations into Polish of IT bestsellers. Such as The Art of Programming by Donald Knuth, or Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H. Cormen and others.

He has promoted more than 50 master’s degrees and 10 doctorates. For 10 years, he headed the UW Institute of Informatics, contributing significantly to the Institute’s international scientific reputation. Suffice it to say that the Institute won the most ERC grants in Poland in a single discipline.

80th anniversary of the birth of prof. Jan Madey. From the left: Wojciech Gryciuk (author of a biography about prof. Madey), Rafał Sikorski (president of the Foundation for Information Technology Development), prof. Krzysztof Diks, prof. Jan Madey and his wife, Dorota. And 5 of 6 ICPC World Champions: Krzysztof Onak, Marek Cygan, Tomasz Czajka, Marcin Pilipczuk and Andrzej Gąsienica-Samek (there is no Filip Wolski). Inscription on the cake: “For the master of champions”, Warsaw, June 14, 2022.

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