News: ERC Awards

Former MPI-SWS postdoc receives ERC starting grant

September 5, 2019

Ori Lahav was awarded an ERC starting grant on "Verification-Aware Programming Language Concurrency Semantics".  Ori was formerly a postdoctoral fellow in the Software Analysis and Verification group, and is now a tenure-track faculty member at Tel Aviv University. Read more about this year's ERC Starting Grants here.

ERC-supported TOROS Project officially launches!

January 1, 2019

The TOROS project, supported by an ERC Starting Grant, has officially started. The project targets the challenge of implementing safety-critical cyber-physical systems on commodity multicore processors such that their temporal correctness can be certified in a formal, trustworthy manner.

Specifically, the TOROS project aims to design a new theory-oriented RTOS that by construction ensures that the temporal behavior of any workload can be analyzed (regardless of whether an application developer is aware of the relevant scheduling theory), 

The TOROS project, supported by an ERC Starting Grant, has officially started. The project targets the challenge of implementing safety-critical cyber-physical systems on commodity multicore processors such that their temporal correctness can be certified in a formal, trustworthy manner.

Specifically, the TOROS project aims to design a new theory-oriented RTOS that by construction ensures that the temporal behavior of any workload can be analyzed (regardless of whether an application developer is aware of the relevant scheduling theory), develop a matching novel timing analysis for below-worst-case provisioning with analytically sound safety margins that yields meaningful probabilistic response-time guarantees, and plans to mechanize and verify all supporting scheduling theory with the Coq proof assistant using the Prosa framework.

See the project homepage for further details. For inquiries, contact Björn Brandenburg (toros@mpi-sws.org).

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Krishna Gummadi awarded ERC Advanced Grant

September 7, 2018

Krishna Gummadi, head of the MPI-SWS Networked Systems group, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. Over the next five years, his project "Foundations of Fair Social Computing" will receive 2.49 million euros, which will allow the group to develop the foundations for fair social computing in the future.

In the most recent round for Advanced Grants, a total of 2,167 research proposals were submitted to the ERC out of which merely 12% were selected for funding.

Krishna Gummadi, head of the MPI-SWS Networked Systems group, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. Over the next five years, his project "Foundations of Fair Social Computing" will receive 2.49 million euros, which will allow the group to develop the foundations for fair social computing in the future.

In the most recent round for Advanced Grants, a total of 2,167 research proposals were submitted to the ERC out of which merely 12% were selected for funding. The sole selection criterion is scientific excellence.

Summary of the Fair Social Computing project proposal

Social computing represents a societal-scale symbiosis of humans and computational systems, where humans interact via and with computers, actively providing inputs to influence---and in turn being influenced by---the outputs of the computations. Social computations impact all aspects of our social lives, from what news we get to see and who we meet to what goods and services are offered at what price and how our creditworthiness and welfare benefits are assessed. Given the pervasiveness and impact of social computations, it is imperative that social computations be fair, i.e., perceived as just by the participants subject to the computation. The case for fair computations in democratic societies is self-evident: when computations are deemed unjust, their outcomes will be rejected and they will eventually lose their participants.

Recently, however, several concerns have been raised about the unfairness of social computations pervading our lives, including

  1. the existence of implicit biases in online search and recommendations,
  2. the potential for discrimination in machine learning based predictive analytics, and
  3. a lack of transparency in algorithmic decision making, with systems providing little to no information about which sensitive user data they use or how they use them.

Given these concerns, we need reliable ways to assess and ensure the fairness of social computations. However, it is currently not clear how to determine whether a social computation is fair, how we can compare the fairness of two alternative computations, how to adjust a computational method to make it more fair, or how to construct a fair method by design. This project will tackle these challenges in turn. We propose a set of comprehensive fairness principles, and will show how to apply them to social computations. In particular, we will operationalize fairness, so that it can be measured from empirical observations. We will show how to characterize which fairness criteria are satisfied by a deployed computational system. Finally, we will show how to synthesize non-discriminatory computations, i.e., how to learn an algorithm from training data that satisfies a given fairness principle.

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Derek Dreyer awarded ERC Consolidator Grant

April 2, 2016

Derek Dreyer, head of the MPI-SWS Foundations of Programming group, has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant. Over the next five years, his project "RustBelt: Logical Foundations for the Future of Safe Systems Programming" will receive almost 2 million euros, which will allow the group to develop rigorous formal foundations for the Rust programming language.

The European Research Council (ERC) is a pan-European funding body that supports cutting-edge research. It offers funding for groundbreaking research projects of the highest scientific quality across Europe,

Derek Dreyer, head of the MPI-SWS Foundations of Programming group, has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant. Over the next five years, his project "RustBelt: Logical Foundations for the Future of Safe Systems Programming" will receive almost 2 million euros, which will allow the group to develop rigorous formal foundations for the Rust programming language.

The European Research Council (ERC) is a pan-European funding body that supports cutting-edge research. It offers funding for groundbreaking research projects of the highest scientific quality across Europe, across all research areas. Talented researchers from all over the world can receive funding for excellent research in Europe. The ERC Consolidator Grant offers funding for researchers with 7 to 12 years of experience after achieving a PhD.

The RustBelt Project

A longstanding question in the design of programming languages is how to balance safety and control. C-like languages give programmers low-level control over resource management at the expense of safety, whereas Java-like languages give programmers safe high-level abstractions at the expense of control.

Rust is a new language developed at Mozilla Research that marries together the low-level flexibility of modern C++ with a strong "ownership-based" type system guaranteeing type safety, memory safety, and data race freedom. As such, Rust has the potential to revolutionize systems programming, making it possible to build software systems that are safe by construction, without having to give up low-level control over performance.

Unfortunately, none of Rust's safety claims have been formally investigated, and it is not at all clear that they hold. To rule out data races and other common programming errors, Rust's core type system prohibits the aliasing of mutable state, but this is too restrictive for implementing some low-level data structures. Consequently, Rust's standard libraries make widespread internal use of "unsafe" blocks, which enable them to opt out of the type system when necessary. The hope is that such "unsafe" code is properly encapsulated, so that Rust's language-level safety guarantees are preserved. But due to Rust's reliance on a weak memory model of concurrency, along with its bleeding-edge type system, verifying that Rust and its libraries are actually safe will require fundamental advances to the state of the art.

In this project, we aim to equip Rust programmers with the first formal tools for verifying safe encapsulation of "unsafe" code. Any realistic languages targeting this domain in the future will encounter the same problem, so we expect our results to have lasting impact. To achieve this goal, we will build on recent breakthrough developments by the PI and collaborators in concurrent program logics and semantic models of type systems.

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MPI-SWS researchers awarded ERC Synergy Grant

December 1, 2013

MPI-SWS directors Peter Druschel and Rupak Majumdar, along with Gerhard Weikum (Scientific Director at the MPI for Informatics) and Michael Backes (MPI-SWS Fellow and Professor at Saarland University), have jointly been awarded the prestigious ERC Synergy Grant.

Over the next six years their project "imPACT: Privacy, Accountability, Compliance, and Trust in Tomorrow's Internet" will receive almost 10 million euros, which will allow them to explore how to protect users against eavesdropping and fraud on the Internet without restricting trade,

MPI-SWS directors Peter Druschel and Rupak Majumdar, along with Gerhard Weikum (Scientific Director at the MPI for Informatics) and Michael Backes (MPI-SWS Fellow and Professor at Saarland University), have jointly been awarded the prestigious ERC Synergy Grant.

Over the next six years their project "imPACT: Privacy, Accountability, Compliance, and Trust in Tomorrow's Internet" will receive almost 10 million euros, which will allow them to explore how to protect users against eavesdropping and fraud on the Internet without restricting trade, freedom of expression or access to information.

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Michael Backes awarded an ERC Starting Grant, selected by Technology Review as a “Young Innovator”

MPI-SWS fellow Michael Backes has been honored as a recipient of the ERC Starting Grant 2009. Michael was also recently selected by the editors of Technology Review as one of the 35 young innovators under the age of 35 whose work they found most exciting.

The ERC Starting Grant was established in 2007 by the European Research Council to support up-and-coming research leaders in Europe. Recipients are selected based upon "outstanding track-record of early achievements appropriate to their research field and career stage."

Michael's 2009 Young Innovator award is based on his work proving that Internet security protocols can really be trusted.

MPI-SWS fellow Michael Backes has been honored as a recipient of the ERC Starting Grant 2009. Michael was also recently selected by the editors of Technology Review as one of the 35 young innovators under the age of 35 whose work they found most exciting.

The ERC Starting Grant was established in 2007 by the European Research Council to support up-and-coming research leaders in Europe. Recipients are selected based upon "outstanding track-record of early achievements appropriate to their research field and career stage."

Michael's 2009 Young Innovator award is based on his work proving that Internet security protocols can really be trusted. Software designed by Backes' group can prove in less than a second whether an Internet protocol is truly secure.

Michael received his Ph.D. from Saarland University in 2002. He was a Research Staff Member at the IBM Zurich Research laboratory before accepting his current position as a professor at Saarland University in 2006. He was named a fellow of the Max-Planck Institute for Software Systems in 2007.

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