TU Wien Informatics

Markus Hecher Wins GI Dissertation Award

  • By Theresa Aichinger-Fankhauser
  • 2022-09-29
  • Research
  • AI
  • Excellence

The most renowned award for Ph.D. theses in German-speaking countries goes to a definite up-and-comer in AI from TU Wien Informatics.

Markus Hecher Wins GI Dissertation Award

On September 29, 2022, the GI Dissertation Award 2021 was presented to three exceptional winners at Informatik 2022 in Hamburg. TU Wien Informatics’ Markus Hecher, post-doc researcher at the research unit for Databases and Artificial Intelligence was honored for his thesis “Advanced tools and methods for treewidth-based problem solving”. The prestigious prize is awarded by the Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), together with the Schweizer Informatik Gesellschaft (SI) and the Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft (OCG). The winners can look forward to a prize money of 5000 Euros.

Christine Regitz, President of the German Informatics Society (GI) was excited “to see which complex and relevant problems researchers already tackle in their Ph.D. theses. […] The GI Dissertation Award aims to put a spotlight on them and their contribution to computer science. After all, they are not only drivers of innovation, but also important figureheads of European computer science research.” Further awardees are Alejandro Molina Ramirez from TU Darmstadt, and Moritz Lipp from TU Graz.

Treewidth-based algorithms in AI: Solving an unanswered problem

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.

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 GI Dissertation Award, he received the EurAI Dissertation Award 2021, the National Award of Excellence 2021 by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and was shortlisted for the Heinz Zemanek Award 2022 by OCG Austria and the E.W. Beth Outstanding Dissertation Prize 2022. 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. He is currently working on a book based on his thesis, which will be published in the IOS Press Dissertations in AI Series. Read more about his recent projects and publications here.

About the GI, SI and OCG Dissertation Award

With the GI Dissertation Award, the Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI), the Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft (OCG), and the Schweizer Informatik Gesellschaft (SIG) aim to highlight exceptional work by young scientists and thereby contribute to the transfer of knowledge from universities to the fields of technology, business, and society. All scientific universities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland that have the right to award doctorates in computer science are eligible to submit proposals for the GI Dissertation Award.

  • The Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI) is the largest professional society for computer science in the German-speaking world. Since 1969, it has represented the interests of computer scientists in science, society, and politics, and is committed to digitization for the common good.

  • The Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft (OCG) is a non-profit association for the promotion of information technology, providing an interdisciplinary forum for current socio-political IT topics. The OCG offers a forum for networking, various events, and continuous education promoting relations between science, business, and politics.

  • The Schweizer Informatik Gesellschaft (SI) promotes the interests and reputation of IT professionals in Switzerland through expert groups and sections, focused projects, professionally challenging events (including the Swiss Digital Summit), publications (including Digital Magazine), and networking.

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