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A Lifetime of Achievement in Real-Time

4/22/2013 6:33:00 AM

Joining the founders and eminent leaders of his research community, Computer Science Professor Tarek Abdelzaher, a Donald Biggar Willett Scholar in the College of Engineering, was named the winner of the 2012 Outstanding Technical Achievement and Leadership Award by the IEEE Technical Committee on Real-Time Systems in December. The award is given for long-term technical achievement and leadership in the field of Real-Time Computing. Of the 14 recipients of this award since its inception, Abdelzaher was the most junior at the time of the award.

Illinois computer science professor Tarek Abdelzaher
Illinois computer science professor Tarek Abdelzaher
Illinois computer science professor Tarek Abdelzaher

Professor Abdelzaher earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, before completing a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1999.  After serving on the faculty at the University of Virginia, he joined the University of Illinois in 2005. At Illinois, Abdelzaher’s research is focused on cyber-physical computing, wireless sensor networks, and embedded and real-time systems.  His work has applications almost anywhere computer-driven devices interact with unpredictable, dynamic environments or remote ecosystems.

“Our ability to understand and control the physical world around us is at the heart of all major scientific breakthroughs and advances in quality of life,” says Abdelzaher. “Technologies that network devices to better link humans with physical systems will revolutionize our future the way the Internet revolutionized our past!” 

Abdelzaher has made significant contributions to three areas: 1) study of component interaction to infer system properties in embedded and real-time computing, 2) analysis of timing behavior and dynamics of distributed software that interacts with the physical world, and 3) theory and tools for understanding systems that feature collaboration of humans and sensors.

He may be best known for the exploration of temporal interactions between software system components in embedded and real-time computing. Abdelzaher invented delay composition algebra, a compositional theoretical framework that describes how worst-case end-to-end delays compose from worst-case component delays in distributed priority-driven systems. Prior to his work, it was assumed that delays compose additively.

As a teacher, Professor Abdelzaher has mentored graduate students who have gone on to succeed in both industry and academia. His students have earned numerous best paper awards and fellowships from the department and the College of Engineering. He created the Embedded Everywhere Lab, a research and education laboratory used for class projects. The lab is designed to encourage creative thinking and allow students to pursue individual projects and ideas on embedded systems topics.

In addition to teaching, he serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Real-Time Systems and has served as Associate Editor of five other journals. Abdelzaher has also been engaged in outreach to under-represented students in engineering education, securing funding for travel grants that have enabled such students to attend a number of conferences in the field.

With this recent award, the University of Illinois becomes the leading institution in the number of awardees. “It is a great honor to join such eminent researchers as Professor Dave Liu, the founder of real-time computing, and Professor Lui Sha, the director of the Embedded Systems Lab,” Abdelzaher says, reflecting on past Illinois awardees. “It was unexpected. I am deeply humbled.”

Herbert Morgan, Department of Computer Science, morgahl [at] illinois [dot] edu, 217/328-4773

Tarek Abdelzaher, Department of Computer Science, zaher [at] illinois [dot] edu, 217/265-6793.
Colin Robertson, Department of Computer Science, colinr [at] illinois [dot] edu, 217/265-6403.