Sha Selected for NASA Advisory Council
CS Professor Lui Sha has been appointed by Administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, to the Aeronautics Committee of the NASA Advisory Council. He will serve on this Committee from 2015 to 2017. As a member of NASA Advisory Council, he will advise the Administrator Bolden on NASA’s research programs.
Sha, the Donald B. Gillies Chair in Computer Science at Illinois, was selected for this council based largely on the body of work he has accomplished in the area of safety critical real time systems. His work enabled the development of the real-time computing system for the International Space Station. The former NASA deputy administrator, Aaron Cohen remarked in October 1992, “We now have a system that will allow [Space Station] Freedom's computers to budget their time, to choose between a variety of tasks, and decide not only which one to do first but how much time to spend in the process.” Sha’s work on real-time computing has transformed IEEE standards on real-time computing, has become the best practice of the real-time computing industry, and is regularly taught in real time computing classes.
His work made it possible to upgrade software in orbiting satellites, an advance that is critical for the success and safety of GPS-based navigation systems. Without Lui’s system in place, such upgrades would be much more difficult, if not impossible.
His work also saved an interplanetary mission. In 1997, the Mars Pathfinder mission reached Mars, and the Sojourner rover landed on the planet. After a few days of sending back information to earth, the system started repeatedly resetting and unable to continue the mission.
These software problems were discovered to be the result of priority inversion, meaning that high priority tasks are pathologically blocked by low priority tasks. It was a widespread problem embedded in operating systems, languages, and computer buses. Research done by Sha on this problem was used to correct the flaw in the rover, making it reliable once more.
Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency do not allow the use of more than one core in a multicore chip because of serious intercore interference problems in current muticore chips. Sha has been leading the effort called Single Core Equivalent Technology to address this challenge with graduate students and with CS Professor Marco Caccamo, Professor Rodolfo Pellizzoni of University of Waterloo, Professor Heechul Yun of Kanas (both were PhD students of Marco and Sha), and senior engineers from Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins. The rapid success of this new technology has enabled Sha to work with industry and with FAA’s Chief Scientist for software certification to develop the certification requirements for multicore avionics.
Sha’s research has also had applications in the health industry. Current work in conjunction with Dr. Richard Berlin and ICU physicians at Carle Hospital is examining cyber-physical systems in an emergency room environment. Together with graduate students and postdocs they developed the cardiac arrest resuscitation best practice guidance system, which has been evaluated by six Carle physicians recently. They unanimously recommend to Carle administration to move it to clinical trial. In addition, this team has started working on best practice guidance system for sepsis and stroke across Carle hospital network. UIUC and Carle have jointly filing a patent for the underlying technology, computational pathophysiology.
Sha’s service on the NASA Advisory Council will assist the launch of a new approach for research projects underwritten by the agency. “NASA’s new strategy will be to let universities help formulate the key research issues,” said Sha. “In the past NASA said I’m going to do this, and they would write a call for proposals. Now the thinking is that this is not the best way to utilize the talents of the universities. So they would like to the universities have more say — given NASA’s goals — of what is the best research that a university can submit.”
Over the course of his career, Sha has also served as a member of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Avionics Advisory Team, the National Academy of Science’s committee on Certifiably Dependable Software, the peer review panel of Safety Critical Avionics Systems Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center, and the NSF’s Planning Committee on Cyber Physical Systems on high assurance medical devices.
Sha was a recipient of the 2009 David Lubkowski Award for the Advancement of Digital Avionics. In 2001 he received the Award for Outstanding Technical Contributions and Leadership in Real-Time Systems from the IEEE Technical Committee on Real-Time Systems. He is a Fellow of ACM and IEEE.