Modelling and Verification using Automata Learning 

Professor Alexandra Silva leads this year’s Needham lecture, she is the 2018 BCS Roger Needham award winner.

This lecture is sponsored by Microsoft. 


Headline Speaker: Professor Alexandra Silva

Introductory Speaker: Professor Prakash Panangaden

Vote of thanks: Professor Peter O'Hearn, UCL and Facebook



17:45-18:30 - Registration with tea/coffee

18:30 - Lecture commences

20:00 - End of lecture

20:00-21:00 - Networking buffet and drinks reception (optional)

21:00 - Close



Automata are one of the simplest and pervasive structures in Computer Science. Despite their simplicity, automata play an important role in many tasks notably in modelling and verification of hardware and software systems.

In this talk, I will describe how automata learning algorithms can be used to model and verify different systems and protocols. I will discuss the challenges that we need to overcome to bring this technique to mainstream hardware (and software) verification. 



Headline Speaker: Professor Alexandra Silva

Alexandra Silva is a theoretical computer scientist whose main research focuses on semantics of programming languages and modular development of algorithms for computational models. A lot of her work uses the unifying perspective offered by coalgebra, a mathematical framework established in the last decades.  

Alexandra is currently a Royal Society Wolfson fellow and Professor of Algebra, Semantics, and Computation at University College London. Previously, she was an assistant professor in Nijmegen and a post-doc at Cornell University, with Prof. Dexter Kozen, and a PhD student at the Dutch national research centre for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI), under the supervision of Prof. Jan Rutten and Dr. Marcello Bonsangue. 

She was the recipient of the Presburger Award 2017, the Leverhulme prize 2016, and an ERC starting Grant in 2015. 

Introductory Speaker: Prakash Panangaden 

Prakash Panangaden attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur India where he obtained an MSc in Physics. He received an MS in Physics from the University of Chicago and then a PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the topic of quantum field theory in curved spacetimes.
He switched to computer science in 1982 obtaining a MS in Computer Science from the University of Utah. He was an assistant professor at Cornell University where he worked on programming language semantics, type therory and concurrency and then an associate professor and professor at McGill University at Montreal Canada. He has spent sabbatical leaves at Cambridge University, Aarhus University and Oxford University. His research interests are primarily probabilistic process theory, machine learning, programming languages and quantum information theory. He has been an invited speaker at several conferences including ETAPS, ICALP, MFPS and LICS. He is the founding chair of the ACM special interest group SIGLOG. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of

Vote of thanks: Peter O'Hearn

Peter O'Hearn is a computer scientist who has made major contributions to the science and engineering of program correctness. His research contains a strand stretching from abstract topics such as mathematical logics through to automated analysis of industrial software used regularly by billions of people.

Peter is known particularly for separation logic, a theory he developed with John Reynolds which opened up new possibilities for scaling logical reasoning about code. This built upon prior work of Peter and David Pym on logic for resources. After over 20 years as an academic, Peter took a position at Facebook in 2013 with the acquisition of a startup he cofounded, Monoidics Ltd. The Infer program analyzer, developed by Peter's team, has resulted in tens of thousands of issues being fixed by Facebook engineers before they reach production. Infer is also used at Amazon, Spotify, Mozilla and other companies.

Peter has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2011 POPL Influential Paper Award, the 2016 CAV Award and the 2016 Gödel Prize. Peter is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and he received an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie University in 2018.

BCS Needham Lecture 2019
Date and time
4 June, 6:00pm - 9:00pm
The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
5.00 - 30.00 GBP