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Tools for Disease

Clarke Leads $10M Initiative

Edmund Clarke

A multidisciplinary team led by Carnegie Mellon's Edmund M. Clarke has received a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Expeditions in Computing program.

The team will create revolutionary computational tools advancing science on a broad array of fronts — from discovering new cancer treatments to designing safer aircraft.

The researchers will harness two methods — known as 'model checking' and 'abstract interpretation' — that have been successful in finding errors in computer circuitry and software by combining and extending them so they can provide insights into models of complex systems, whether they be biological or electronic.

Specifically, computer scientists, biomedical researchers and engineers from eight leading research institutions will use the techniques to better understand what causes deadly pancreatic cancer and the common heart rhythm problem known as atrial fibrillation.

At the same time, they will use the techniques to study the embedded computer systems that are increasingly critical to the safe operation of aircraft and automobiles.

"Biological and embedded computer systems may be on opposite ends of the research spectrum, but they pose similar challenges for creating and analyzing computational models of their behavior," said Clarke, who is the FORE Systems University Professor of Computer Science and the 2007 winner of the Association for Computing Machinery's Turing Award. The Turing Award is the computer science equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

"Solutions to these problems at either end will enable new approaches to modeling across the spectrum that ultimately will improve health and safety. With this new initiative, I think we finally have achieved the critical mass of expertise and effort needed to crack these puzzles."

In addition to Clarke, who is one of the co-inventors of model checking, the research team includes Amir Pnueli, a New York University computer scientist and a Turing Award winner for his work on systems verification; Pnueli will serve as the project's deputy director.  Among the other notables on the team are Patrick Cousot, an NYU computer scientist and co-inventor of Abstract Interpretation, and James Glimm, a National Medal of Science winner who heads the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

"Prof. Clarke has truly assembled a dream team for this important new initiative," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "Computational modeling and simulation have become critical to discoveries in almost every scientific discipline, so finding new ways to build and explore these models will pay research dividends for years to come."

Related Links: School of Computer Science  |  National Science Foundation

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