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Awards and distinctions

30/06/2017

A successful year for the centre with two GDR GPL 2016 thesis prize-winners

An excellent 2016 for the centre with two winners of the GDR GPL (Programming and Software Engineering Research Group) 2016 thesis prize: Jacques-Henri Jourdan (Gallium) is awarded first prize and Antoine Delignat-Lavaud (Prosecco) receives an honourable mention

Meeting with Jacques-Henri Jourdan, former PhD student with the Gallium project team

> Can you tell us about your career?

After entering thegrande écoleENS, I did a degree in computer science and then the MPRI (Parisian master of research in computer science). I did several internships: at Microsoft Research in 2010, Inria in 2011 and at the CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) in 2012. These introduced me to the two fields of computer science on which my thesis focuses: static analysis using abstract interpretation and formal verification with the Coq proof assistant. During my internship at Inria, I began to work with Xavier Leroy, who then became my thesis supervisor.

I then did my thesis in the Gallium team, and defended it last May. I am now a post-doctoral researcher for software systems at the Max Planck Institute, in Derek Dreyer's team.

> You won the GDR GPL 2016 thesis first prize, what does this award represent for you? 

Obviously, a certain pride: my thesis involved a lot of work, with some moments that were harder than others. However, ultimately, it was a great success: I consider this prize to be an encouragement to continue in academic research. It is also, I hope, a reward for the people I have worked with, within the Gallium team and the Verasco project.

> What are your plans for the future?

I am currently taking the CNRS and Inria competitive exams to become a researcher. In fact, even if my thesis work was - overall - a success, it revealed the weakness of the formal verification tools that I used. I would therefore like to work on improving them, and I have many ideas for this.

> What advice would you give to other researchers who might wish to approach Inria in order to do their thesis?

One very important piece of advice, I think, is to keep believing in yourself and to beware of the 'impostor syndrome'. This expression describes the feeling that many (young) researchers have when they realise that their colleagues are better than them in certain fields. As a result they feel like 'impostors', and that they do not deserve to be in the situation they are in. The truth is that, especially in research, profiles are very varied and so, inevitably, the person working in the office next door has qualities that we do not have, but we have other things that s/he does not. You therefore need to keep believing in yourself, avoid comparing yourself directly to others, but also keep a critical eye on your work.

Another good piece of advice is not to 'stay in your corner'. A thesis is the opportunity to meet many people - in your team, research centre and in conferences. This is not just important on a professional level, but above all enriching on a personal level.

Meeting with Antoine Delignat-Lavaud, former PhD student with the Prosecco project team

> Can you tell us about your career?

After having studied computer science at ENS Cachan, during which time I worked on formal languages, I began my thesis on the security of authentication protocols on the Web at Inria in Paris, under the supervision of Karthikeyan Bhargavan. Even though this is an extremely concrete problem (our research having had a real impact on the security of the services used daily by millions of users), I was struck by the very large diversity of the research fields and methods used during my thesis (covering cryptography as well as protocols, programming languages and verification) in the relatively compartmentalised context of French research. At the end of my thesis, I was recruited as a researcher at the Microsoft Research laboratory in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where I am working now.

> You received an honourable mention at the GDR GPL 2016 thesis prize, what does this represent for you? 

This represents academic recognition for relatively applied research, which makes it even the more satisfying given that this research is sometimes not very highly regarded in France. I hope that my thesis can serve as an example of the application of fields of research in which Inria, and more generally French research, are at the cutting edge of innovation in the world (for example, functional programming, proofs of programs or public-key cryptography), although I regret the low number of job prospects in France.

> What are your plans for the future?

I am currently working on the Everest project, whose aim is to apply the vision of a secure Internet through the formal methods I am developing in my thesis. Several formal PhD students from the Gallium team are working with me on this ambitious project: we already have prototypes of a browser and a Web server using our verified library of decoding of network communications, and we hope that these can be used on a large scale within the next three years.

> What advice would you give to other researchers who might wish to approach Inria in order to do their thesis?

My experience of the thesis environment at Inria has been very positive: there is a good level of support and administrative and technical assistance, which is unfortunately not always the case in universities. The organisation into teams is effective as long as you remain open to what is happening in other teams (including in other centres). It is therefore important to follow and take part in cross-disciplinary events, such as theJunior Seminaror working groups and research groups like the GDR GPL or the GT-Vérif.

Keywords: GDR GPL 2016 Inria de Paris Award Gallium Prosecco

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