(Photo from facebook.com)


 Michael Cohen, one the most brilliant young minds of our field, recently passed away in Berkeley.

After going to MIT for college, Michael worked for Facebook and was a graduate student at MIT. This semester, he was at Berkeley as Simons Fellow in connection with the program on optimization at the Simons Institute.

In a few short years, Michael left his mark on a number of problems that are close to the heart of in theory‘s readers.

He was part of the team that developed the fastest algorithm for solving systems of linear equations in which the matrix of constraints is a graph Laplacian (or, more generally, is symmetric and diagonally dominated), running in time O(m \sqrt {\log n}) where m is the number of non-zero entries of the matrix and n is the number of variables.

He also worked on matrix approximation via subsampling, on algorithms that approximate random walk properties, on algorithms for flow and shortest paths, and on geometric algorithms.

My favorite result is his single-author paper giving a polynomial time construction of bipartite Ramanujan graphs of all degree and all sizes, making the approach of Marcus, Spielman and Srivastava constructive.

Michael was a unique person, who gave a lot to our community and had touched several lives. His loss is an unspeakable tragedy that I still find very hard to process.