NSF CAREER award supports researcher's cyber-physical systems work

January 25, 2016

MANHATTAN, KANSAS -- The National Science Foundation has issued a CAREER award to a Kansas State University computing and information sciences researcher for her work that can develop better transportation, health care and energy systems.

Pavithra Prabhakar, assistant professor of computing and information sciences, has received a five-year $446,000 CAREER award for her project "Robust Verification of Cyber-Physical Systems."

"Cyber-physical systems are an important part of modern society and they have transformative applications in the transportation, health care and energy sectors," Prabhakar said. "This research will bridge an important gap in the existing methodologies for the analysis of cyber-physical systems through the novel paradigm of robust verification, which will enable the development of high-confidence cyber-physical systems, particularly automotive and aerospace systems."

The National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Program is one of the foundation's most prestigious awards for supporting early career faculty who effectively integrate research and education in the context of their institution's mission.

"We are thrilled that Pavithra has received the CAREER award for her important research on systems that are becoming more prevalent in our lives," said Darren Dawson, dean of the College of Engineering. "Prestigious faculty recognition at this level is a crucial part of Kansas State University's plan to be a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

For her CAREER project, Prabhakar will address the challenge of reliably developing cyber-physical systems, which are software networks that interact with the physical world. Prabhakar will focus on several types of cyber-physical systems, including aerospace, automotive and robotic systems.

Prabhakar will dig deeper into the design of cyber-physical systems and take a holistic approach to ensuring high-level specifications. Most of the current analysis focuses on detecting low-level errors in cyber-physical systems software. Prabhakar wants to go a step further and develop a robust verification paradigm that addresses high-level functional properties, such as collision avoidance in air traffic control.

"We want to investigate new foundations, abstractions and verification algorithms for robust analysis, in light of novel quantitative and topological aspects of robustness," Prabhakar said. ''We want to advance knowledge in the fields of formal methods and hybrid control systems by leveraging ideas from control theory, dynamical systems theory, optimization theory and satisfiability modulo theory."

Prabhakar and her research team also will develop prototype tools. She will create new cross-disciplinary courses to teach undergraduate and graduate students about hybrid control system design. Through research and outreach activities, Prabhakar will recruit and mentor undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups. She also will organize physical systems programs and activities for high school students interested in STEM-related careers.

"This CAREER award will be critical in jump-starting my research," Prabhakar said. "In particular, it will facilitate building a strong hybrid systems group in the computing and information sciences department by supporting some initial students."

Prabhakar's main research interests include the formal analysis of cyber-physical systems, with emphasis on both theoretical and practical methods for verification and synthesis of hybrid control systems. She has served on the program committees of several conferences in the field of hybrid systems and formal verification as well as chaired several workshops and seminars. She also has received the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant from the European Union.

Kansas State University

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