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Joseph Sifakis

Turing Award


Computer systems are built according to specifications and then checked against a set of given properties reflecting their specifications, to ensure that they have been developed correctly. Professor Joseph Sifakis contributed the verification method called model checking which earned him a Turing Award in 2007, an award akin to the Nobel Prize of Computing.

Model checking tools are now widely used in industries such as semiconductors, PCs, and healthcare. They have enabled these industries to shorten time to market and enhance product quality and trustworthiness. 

Currently Prof Sifakis is seeking to find a way to guarantee safety of autonomous vehicles, commonly called self-driving cars. Currently autopilot systems rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning codes that are not explainable. 

This is the area Prof Sifakis is now focussed on. The transition from cars with automation features to fully autonomous cars requires rigorous design techniques based on mathematical models allowing to estimate and guarantee their safety. From this perspective, he believes that there is a big gap between automation and autonomy that cannot be filled without developing new scientific and engineering foundations for autonomous systems. It will be many years before self-driving cars and autonomous transport systems become a reality. 

His advice for young computer scientists embarking on their career is to acquire a multi-disciplinary background. Writing software programs is insufficient, he said. They should also develop their creativity and leadership skills to be better prepared for the future where job descriptions change rapidly. 

He highlighted that professional success “will come when you are good enough in your job and you have the right talent and skills”. 

Prof Sifakis is a Greek-born French computer scientist who works for the French National Centre for Scientific Research at the Verimag laboratory in Grenoble France. 

He has been the scientific coordinator of Artist2, the European Network of Excellence for research on Embedded Systems. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences, a member of the French National Academy of Engineering, a member of Academia Europea, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2019, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.