Hall of Fame of ICPC World Champions from Poland: Marcin Pilipczuk

Marcin Pilipczuk was a member of the University of Warsaw team, the second from Poland, which won the 2007 ICPC in Tokyo. The UW is the only one in the world to continuously advance to the ICPC finals from its first start in the qualifying rounds in 1994, thanks to professors Jan Madey and Krzysztof Diks

Marcin Pilipczuk, although his parents are programmers, was in high school when his passion was mathematics. He can also boast of winning gold and silver medals at IMO, which allowed him to become a scholarship holder of the National Children’s Fund, where he met prof. Jan Madey, its long-term chairman and prof. Krzysztof Diks. In OI, however, his most tremendous success was only 5th place, so he did not qualify for the international competition. When it was necessary to decide on his choice of studies, like nine of his classmates, he chose simultaneous computer science and mathematics studies at the University of Warsaw and was delighted with them. From the beginning, he became interested in algorithmics, and this passion has remained with him to this day. After the third year, he completed an exciting 3-month internship at the Nvidia headquarters in California, which, although not related to algorithmics, gave him a lot from the point of view of the organization of scientific work. As he passed most of his compulsory subjects in advance, in the second half of the fourth year of studies, he could go on a 4-month internship, this time already algorithmic, to the Google branch in Zurich. After its completion, he received a job offer but did not take advantage of it. In the meantime, he reached the TopCoder and Google Code Jam world finals twice and won the ICPC 2007 finals with Filip Wolski and Marek Cygan.

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

After the second permitted start in the finals, however, a year later, he stopped competing in programming competitions. As he explains himself, the preparations took him a long time, resembling professional sports training. Secondly, most of the organizers of other competitions, preferring the sprint pace of problem-solving, could not propose too complex and demanding tasks to the participants. These interested him less and less. When he defended his degree in computer science in 2008, he started 4-year doctoral studies at the University of Warsaw. Now, he can only regret that in Poland and not in another country, which would allow him to broaden his cultural horizons. However, he did not quit mathematics, defending his diploma in 2009. Ultimately, he obtained a doctoral degree in mathematical sciences in 2012 based on the thesis “New techniques used in solving selected NP-difficult problems,” for which he was awarded the International Prize of Stefan Banach and, together with Marek Cygan, the Witold Lipski Award. Shortly after obtaining his doctorate, he was employed at the UW, being promoted after a year to the position of assistant professor. Still, at the same time, he was given a 2-year leave, during which he went with the whole family for scientific internships. The first was at the Norwegian University of Bergen, the second at the British University of Warwick, and the third at the American Simons Institute for Theory of Computing in Berkeley, California.

When he returned to Poland at the end of 2015, he received a Homing grant from the Foundation for Polish Science for a project devoted to researching the properties of algorithms. It lasted from October 2016 to September 2018 and was associated with a budget of about $75,000. In 2017, he first obtained his habilitation based on the publication cycle “Cuts, disjoint paths and coherence in graphs.” He then almost simultaneously received another prestigious Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for a project related to discrete mathematics, which this time was related to a budget of 1.2 mln euros. It started in 2017 and continues to this day because, due to the pandemic, it was extended until August 2022. It was a great honor because such grants in the history of Polish universities do not happen too often. In the 2017 edition, only two more people got it from other disciplines of knowledge.

Unauthorized post

80th anniversary of the birth of professor 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. (Warsaw, June 14, 2022)

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