Speech by Professor Joseph Sifakis, President of the Prize Selection Committee at the Award Ceremony on the 4th October 2018

Professor Anastasia Ailamaki was born in Nicosia, to a Cypriot mother and a Cretan father. She grew up first in Peloponnese and then in Chania, Crete. Since her youth, she was distinguished in her studies.

As a high school student, she won the bronze medal in the mathematical Olympiad and Balcanian competitions under the auspices of the Greek Mathematical Society.

Anastasia Ailamaki obtained in 1990 her Engineering Degree from the Computer Engineering Department of the Polytechnic School in the University of Patras. For the next five years, she worked as an Assistant at the Technical University of Crete in Chania where she actively contributed to both teaching and research activities, in particular through participation to European R&D projects.

In 1995, Anastasia Ailamaki went to the USA for doctoral studies, initially at the University of Rochester and then at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where in 2000 she obtained a PhD on the brink between data management and computer architecture.

In 2001, she joined as an assistant professor the School of Computer Science in Carnegie Mellon University, one of the four most prestigious academic institutions worldwide. There, she worked for 8 years, was promoted to the position of assistant professor and did the first steps of her academic career gaining international recognition.

Since 2008, Anastasia Ailamaki holds a full professor chair at EPFL, the Federal Technical University of Lausanne, a first class academic institution worldwide. Currently, she is the director of a research laboratory with 20 researchers. Her research focuses on three strongly related topics of Computing: data management, computer architecture and storage systems. She has made numerous and innovative contributions that have attracted the international recognition and make her one of the most prominent researchers in her area.

Prof. Ailamaki has directed more than twenty PhD theses, and her students have followed academic and industrial careers in international institutions. Her research has benefited funding from international institutions and tech companies. By way of indication, I will mention the famous and important European Υoung Ιnvestigator Αward of the European Science Foundation.

The many and various research contributions of the Awardee find application to massive data analysis that is essential for the development of smart services and systems. For their commercial exploitation, she has founded and directs a startup company on Big Data infrastructures called RAW Labs, which is based in Lausanne.

More specifically, application areas of her work include neurosciences and scientific data analysis. I will mention the application to spatial data base technology to achieve a spectacular speed up of simulation of neural systems from 10000 to hundreds of hundreds of millions of neurons in the framework of the famous Human Brain Project. As part of the same project, the query engine developed by Prof. Ailamaki which derives insights from vast amounts of heterogeneous raw data was the backbone for the Israeli hospital in Tel Aviv to discover 5 new variations of Alzheimer’s disease.

The numerous applications to scientific data analysis are the object of international collaborations. I mention only two cases: the spectacular speed up of earthquake simulations at the Carnegie Mellon QUAKE group and the use of algorithms for data organization enabling faster queries in the SLOAN Digital Sky Survey for the astronomers at the Johns Hopkins University as well as the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Further applications are developed by RAW Labs SA mostly geared to financial and public services such as the use of search engines from the Swiss public to interact with state and bank data repositories.

Concluding, I will say that Prof. Ailamaki’s contribution to the Science and Technology of Computing is significant, multifaceted and innovative. It establishes herself as a prominent figure of the vast Cypriot and Greek diaspora that flourishes in the international scientific arena. For this reason, the Jury of the Nemitsas Prize 2018 in Computer Science, which I had the honor to preside, has unanimously selected her for this distinction.