TU Wien Informatics

Markus Hecher Wins EurAI Dissertation Award 2021

  • 2022-08-08
  • AI
  • Excellence

Hecher’s thesis solved a problem unanswered for decades and is honored as the best dissertation on AI in Europe.

Stefan Woltran (TU Wien Informatics), Rina Dechter (University of California, Irvine, USA), Markus Hecher (TU Wien Informatics), and Carles Sierra (President of the EurAI) (fltr).
Stefan Woltran (TU Wien Informatics), Rina Dechter (University of California, Irvine, USA), Markus Hecher (TU Wien Informatics), and Carles Sierra (President of the EurAI) (fltr).

Markus Hecher received the Dissertation Award 2021 awarded by the European Association for Artificial Intelligence (EurAI). The EurAI Artificial Intelligence Dissertation Award honors the best thesis on AI in Europe. Only the most original works with an exceptional impact on AI research are being considered in the annual competition.

Markus Hecher finished his Ph.D. in July 2021 within an individual binational agreement between TU Wien and the University of Potsdam, supervised by Stefan Woltran and Torsten Schaub. Stefan Woltran is head of the Research Unit Databases and Artificial Intelligence at TU Wien Informatics and co-head of the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (CAIML). Torsten Schaub is professor for knowledge processing and information systems as well as the founder and CEO of potassco solutions. He served as the president of the Association of Logic Programming for 5 years. Both Schaub and Woltran are recognized EurAI fellows.

In his thesis, Markus Hecher focused on ways to improve solving computationally hard problems. In order to speed-up modern computer programs tackling such problems, one can analyze the structural dependency of instances. This is often studied by means of the so-called treewidth, a measure that indicates how tree-like (i.e. how easy to solve) an instance is. Hecher developed a novel toolkit for ruling out significant improvements of a whole list of treewidth-based algorithms in AI, thereby solving a problem that has been unanswered for more than a decade.

Besides the Dissertation Award 2021 by EurAI, his Ph.D. thesis entitled “Advanced tools and methods for treewidth-based problem solving” received the National Award of Excellence 2021 by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF). For a single-authored paper covering a key result of his thesis, he has been awarded the prestigious Marco Cadoli Best Student Paper Award at KR 2020. Moreover, a recent follow-up work resulted in a combined Best Student Paper Award and Best Paper Award at ICLP 2021.

Markus Hecher has set the course for an extraordinary academic career – after receiving the FWF Erwin Schroedinger Fellowship he is now carrying out 2 years of research at MIT, Massachusetts (USA) in the group of Erik Demaine. Read more about his recent projects and publications here.

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