News 2010

Rupak Majumdar joins the MPI-SWS faculty

October 2010
Rupak Majumdar joins the institute's faculty as a scientific director. Rupak's research interests are in computer-aided verification and control of reactive, real-time, hybrid, and probabilistic systems; software verification and programming languages; and logic and automata theory.

Rupak's research spans the spectrum of formal verification techniques, ranging from theoretical foundations of logic and automata theory to practical software engineering tools that systematically analyze thousands of lines of code for programmer errors. In the field of software model checking, Rupak has made major contributions. Rupak, along with Ranjit Jhala, wrote the the model checker Blast, which is able to analyze over 100,000 lines of code for complex temporal properties. This achievement was a major milestone and proof of feasibility in the field of software verification and led to a flurry of academic and industrial activity in the area.

Rupak joins MPI-SWS from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was on the faculty of the computer science department. Prior to that, Rupak received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley, and his B.Tech. degree in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur.

Viktor Vafeiadis joins the MPI-SWS faculty

October 2010
Viktor Vafeiadis joins the institute's faculty, starting in October 2010. Viktor's research interests are in software analysis and verification, programming languages, programming logics, and concurrency.

Viktor's research contributions include inventing new concurrent program logics (RGSep & deny/guarantee); developing automated verification tools (SmallfootRG & Cave) for proving correctness properties of concurrent algorithms; and verifying some particularly challenging algorithms manually (e.g., mcas), mechanically (e.g., fast congruence closure), or automatically (e.g., lazy set).

Viktor received his B.A. degree in Computer Science in 2004 and his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science in 2008 both from the University of Cambridge. After that, he held post-doctoral research positions at Microsoft Research and at the University of Cambridge.

MPI-SWS study exposing Facebook privacy leak attracts global media attention

October 2010
A study by MPI-SWS researchers Saikat Guha (now at Microsoft Research), Bin Cheng, and Paul Francis has been highlighted on CNN, NPR, The Washington Post,Fox News, and other major media outlets.

The study, which will be presented at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) in November, looks at the targeting behavior of Google and Facebook. While the goal of the study was to understand targeting in general, the researchers discovered that gay Facebook users can unknowingly reveal to advertisers that they are gay simply by clicking on an ad targeted to gay men. The ads appear innocuous in that they make no mention of targeting gay users (for instance, an ad for a nursing degree). A user's sexual orientation can be leaked even if the user made his sexual orientation private using Facebook's privacy settings.

This study was done as part of a broader research project to design techniques for making advertising more private.

Visiting Professor Johannes Gehrke wins Humboldt Award

October 2010
Johannes Gehrke, a professor at Cornell University, has been selected for a prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. This award will provide support for him to spend eight months in Germany, working with Peter Druschel and other MPI-SWS researchers on data-intensive distributed systems that make up the software infrastructure inside such large Web companies as Amazon, Yahoo! and Google.

The Humboldt Research Award is granted "in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future."

Andreas Haeberlen receives Otto Hahn Medal

June 2010
Andreas Haeberlen has been awarded the 2009 Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievement. The medal, and its accompanying monetary prize, will be presented to Andreas at the Max Planck society's annual General Assembly in Hannover on June 16. Andreas's medal was awarded for "pioneering work on accountability in distributed computer systems, in particular for the design, implementation and demonstration of practical techniques for the reliable and tamper-proof detection of complex faults. Andreas obtained his PhD in Spring 2009 and is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1948, the Max Planck Society is a non-profit scientific organization affiliated with the Max Planck Institutes. The Society awards the Otto Hahn Medal annually to young scientists in recognition of outstanding scientific achievement. In addition to a stipend, the award gives winners preference for grants enabling them to conduct research abroad for one year.

Robert Harper appointed as an external scientific member

June 2010
Robert Harper has been appointed as the institute's first external scientific member. Dr. Harper is a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he conducts research on programming language design and implementation. Bob will be visiting the institute in Summer 2010.

The external scientific member appointment is a courtesy appointment, which acknowledges the member's scientific excellence, as well as his or her close collaboration and contribution to joint research projects with MPI-SWS faculty and researchers.

Robert Harper has been a professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University since 1988. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 1985, and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science at Edinburgh University from 1985-1988. He is best known for his work on the design, definition, and implementation of Standard ML; the design and application of the LF logical framework; the type-theoretic foundations of modularity in programming languages; the use of typed intermediate languages for certified compilation; the co-invention of self-adjusting computation for dynamic algorithms; and the application of fundamental theory to practical software systems. His current interests include mechanization of the metatheory of programming languages, the integration of types and verification, and the application of programming language theory to computer security.

Umut Acar joins the MPI-SWS faculty

January 2010
Umut Acar joins the institute's faculty, starting in January 2010. Umut's research interests are in language and algorithm design and implementation, particularly for dynamic systems that interact with changing data from various sources, such as users and the physical environment.

Such systems abound in many areas of computer science. For example, physical simulations often involve objects that move continuously over time, databases host and process data that changes over time (e.g., by introduction of new information records), and connectivity in networks and distributed systems changes as links go down or come alive.

Umut's primary research focus has been self-adjusting computation, where computations respond automatically to modifications to their data. With his collaborators, he designs languages for developing self-adjusting programs, researches techniques for analyzing their complexity, and evaluates the proposed techniques by considering problem domains such as computational geometry, machine learning, and scientific computing. Umut's other interests include parallel computing, databases, and design and implementation of high-level languages.

Umut Acar received his B.S. in Computer Science from Bilkent University-Turkey in 1997, his M.A. from University of Texas at Austin in 1999, and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. Umut joins MPI-SWS from the Toyota Technological Institute of Chicago, where he was an assistant professor from 2005 to 2009.