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Probabilistic Programming: Probability Theory for the Masses

On Monday 19th of September we welcome Joost-Pieter Katoen at Reykjavík University. His lecture on probabilistic programming, a fascinating new direction in programming, will be held in Room M209

  • 19.9.2022, 15:00 - 16:00, Háskólinn í Reykjavík

On Monday 19th of September, we welcome Joost-Pieter Katoen for a lecture at Reykjavík University. Probabilistic programming is a fascinating new direction in programming. FaceBook, Google and Microsoft, to mention a few, are investing lots of research efforts in probabilistic programming

Nearly every programming language has a probabilistic version. Scala, JavaScript, Haskell, Prolog, C, Python, you name it, and – yes – even Excel has been extended with features for randomness. These languages aim to make probabilistic modelling and machine learning accessible to any programmer, or any user. Probabilistic programs describe recipes for how to infer conclusions about big data from a mixture of uncertain data and real-world observations. Bayesian networks, a key model in decision-making, are simple instances of such programs. Probabilistic programs steer autonomous robots and self-driving cars, are key to describing security mechanisms, naturally encode randomised algorithms, and are rapidly encroaching AI and machine learning. 

In this talk, I will unravel what probabilistic programs are, and illustrate some fascinating applications such as the automated detection of seismographic activities and the training of neural networks. 

Joost-Pieter Katoen is Theodore von Kármán Fellow and Distinguished Professor at RWTH Aachen University, where he is head of the Software Modeling and Verification Group. His research marries theory with its applications and supporting tool development, with a focus on formal methods, computer-aided verification (in particular, model checking), concurrency theory, and semantics (in particular, semantics of probabilistic programming languages). Together with Christel Baier, he wrote and published the book "Principles of Model Checking" (MIT Press), which has received wide acclaim and over 7,100 citations since 2008. 

Joost-Pieter Katoen was elected a member of Academia Europaea (the Academy of Europe) in 2013. He received an ERC Advanced Grant in 2018 and an honorary doctorate from Aalborg University in 2017. His paper "Approximate symbolic model checking of continuous-time Markov chains", co-authored with Christel Baier and  Holger Hermanns, has been selected for the 2022 CONCUR Test-of-Time Award. Last, but not least, Joost-Pieter Katoen was awarded the FAMOS Prize by RWTH Aachen University in 2017 for his commitment to work-life balance, especially for young PhD students with children.



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