John A. “Jack” Stankovic, BP America Professor of computer science at the University of Virginia, has been elected as a member of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Stankovic, long known as a visionary and influential leader in computer science education and research, was named to the academy for “foundational contributions to the theory and application of both real-time systems and resource-constrained, distributed systems.”
Stankovic is most recently known for his work in cyber-physical systems, which combine sensors – examples of “resource-constrained, distributed” computing devices – used to collect data about physical things, such as people, cars and the built environment, with computing. Cyber-physical systems benefit people in myriad ways, including making products and infrastructure safer and more efficient, conserving natural resources and improving health care.
In addition to Stankovic’s own research in urban infrastructure and smart health, he was an early advocate for research and education in cyber-physical systems, which build on foundational technologies that he also helped pioneer earlier in his career.
These include real-time systems, an area in which Stankovic rose to prominence after publishing a seminal paper in 1988. The article in the journal Computer, “Misconceptions About Real-Time Computing: A Serious Problem for Next-Generation Systems,” led to the creation of a new computer science field.
Real-time systems collect and process data to deliver accurate results within task-specific deadlines. The deadlines are technically hard to achieve as they respond to changing conditions.
In his paper, Stankovic argued failing to meet these deadlines would have catastrophic consequences, thus the computer science community, including universities, governments and industry, needed to coalesce around the problem to solve it through research, education and development of systems for the real world.
“Jack’s research will only become more important in the years ahead, as we transition to an era of cyber-physical systems connected via networks like 5G and beyond,” wrote Jennifer Rexford, professor and department chair of computer science at Princeton University, in a letter of nomination for Stankovic’s membership in the Virginia academy.
“These are challenging applications that have unusually tight performance, reliability, security and energy requirements because they interact directly with the physical world. Jack has laid the foundation that makes this future world possible, and gives us the tools we need to create systems truly worthy of the trust society increasingly places in them.”
After earning his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at Brown University, Stankovic worked in the anti-ballistic missile system program at Bell Laboratories, where he learned computer programming. He returned to Brown for his master’s and Ph.D. in computer science, then spent nearly 18 years at the University of Massachusetts.
Stankovic came to the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1997 to chair the computer science department, holding the position for 7.5 years. In 2018, he co-founded and became director of the Link Lab, a center for cyber-physical research of more than 200 graduate students and about 40 faculty from computer science and multiple engineering disciplines.
Stankovic is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery. He founded two research journals, Real-Time Systems, which he also served as editor-in-chief, and ACM Transactions on Computing for Healthcare. He also was editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems.
He has published more than 400 papers, which include nine best-paper, seven runner-up, and two test-of-time award winners. He has an extraordinary Google Scholar H-index score – which measures research output and impact – of 122 and nearly 65,000 citations at this writing.
Stankovic has received one of his profession’s highest honors three times, each from different IEEE research communities. The Technical Committee on Cyber-Physical Systems Technical Achievement Award, came in 2022, the Technical Committee on Real-Time Systems Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement and Leadership in 2000, and the inaugural Technical Community on Distributed Processing Annual Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006.
In 2015, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of York, U.K., which developed one of Europe’s pre-eminent programs in real-time and distributed systems in the wake of his 1988 paper.
Stankovic has mentored 44 Ph.D. students and eight postdoctoral researchers. Among numerous honors for teaching, research and service, he is especially proud of being recognized in 2021 with a UVA Research Mentor Award.
The Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine was founded in 2013. Modeled after the National Academies, the Virginia Academy concentrates expertise of the most accomplished and innovative leaders in science, engineering and medicine to provide nonpartisan, objective guidance to decision-makers.