Ellie Mamantov ’21 joins Dick Stearns ’58 in Germany for Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Mamantov studied computer science and psychology at Carleton, and Stearns studied mathematics.

Erica Helgerud ’20 18 October 2023 Posted In:
An older person and a younger person lean together to pose for a photo.
Dick Stearns ’58 and Ellie Mamantov ’21Photo:

Ellie Mamantov ’21, current PhD student in the Yale University Social Robotics Lab, recently joined fellow alum Richard “Dick” Stearns ’58 in Germany for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, bringing together multiple generations of Carleton computer scientists.

Mamantov was one of only 200 young researchers selected from around the world to attend the forum. Stearns attended as one of the laureates, all of whom represent the most prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science. Stearns won the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) A. M. Turing Award in 1993 along with Juris Hartmanis, in recognition of their seminal paper that established the foundations for the field of computational complexity theory.

Stearns and Mamantov’s connection, however, pre-dates the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, and is thanks in part to Carleton computer science professor David Liben-Nowell. One of Liben-Nowell’s students discovered that Stearns was a Carleton alum during the summer of 2022, when Liben-Nowell was running an off-campus studies program on the history of computing. He’d given an assignment in which he asked his students to “adopt” a Turing Award winner and give a short presentation about them—and when they arrived at the 1993 winner, a student announced that Stearns went to Carleton.

After getting in touch with him from afar, Liben-Nowell met Stearns in person when he returned to Carleton for his 65th Reunion this summer. During a dinner Stearns hosted with Carleton faculty while he was on campus, he expressed great interest in nominating other Carls to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, and along with fellow computer science professor Anna Rafferty, Liben-Nowell worked to help him nominate a couple of people. Mamantov was ultimately selected and attended, and she very much enjoyed the experience.

“My time at the Forum was great,” Mamantov said. “I really enjoyed all the laureates’ talks, from the full-hour lectures to the shorter spark talks. Speaking with them was always extremely interesting—especially my fellow Carleton alum Dick Stearns!”

Mamantov’s favorite part of the forum was getting to meet so many other young researchers and learn more about what kinds of computer science and mathematics research is being done all over the world.

“It was great to hear about others’ research, and to get their reactions to and feedback on the work I am doing,” Mamantov said. “I feel so lucky and honored to have been selected to attend. It was an experience I’ll remember for a long time!”

Erica Helgerud ’20 is the news and social media manager for Carleton College.