Research in game theory tackles IT complexity

IST Austria's Krishnendu Chatterjee wins an award for his work on systems design

As IT systems are getting more complex, designing them correctly is getting more difficult, too, says computer scientist Krishnendu Chatterjee. For his work on game theoretic models for the synthesis of correct systems he has now won both a €1.2 million (approximately US$1.7 million) grant from the European Research Council and a US$200,000 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship.

Both awards aim to support up-and-coming researchers. Chatterjee is an assistant professor at the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. His research group deals with computer-aided verification and game theory.

Chatterjee says he will mainly spend the money to add researchers to his team. "As I and my team do theoretical research we don't need much special, costly equipment. What we need is research staff," he said. So far Chatterjee is planning to hire one more postdoc researcher and three Ph.D. students.

Currently Chatterjee is working on quantitative graph games and their application to the synthesis of correct systems. "Our goal is to develop automated tools that help in the development of software systems," he said. The researcher aims to advance the methods of verification for reactive systems such as operating systems. These systems are usually modeled as a graph. To verify such a system, games are played on the graphs. Chatterjee's work focuses on mathematical theory to find new ways to deal with large graph games.

"An intuitive description of graph games is the game of chess: Vertices of the graph represent configurations of the chess board, and players make moves in turns from one vertex to another," said Chatterjee. Transferred to system analysis, this means the system and the environment are the players and every vertex represents a state of the system resulting from their opposing actions. "The goal is to ensure the system behaves correctly against all environment behaviors," Chatterjee added.

"As Microsoft develops operating systems, our work has a close relation to their work," Chatterjee said. Relevance to the aims of Microsoft research is one of the criteria for the software company when selecting the research faculty fellows. Chatterjee said that in the context of the fellowship he will collaborate with Microsoft researchers in Redmond and India.

Chatterjee has been working with IST Austria since June 2009. The institute, inaugurated in 2009, is dedicated to basic research and graduate education in the natural and mathematical sciences. Thus far 20 professors have joined IST Austria.

Chatterjee earned his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, where his thesis about so-called "omega-regular games" won the David J. Sakrison award for outstanding research. In addition the European Association for Computer Science Logic decorated him with their Ackermann award, named after the mathematician Wilhelm Ackermann.

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