Georgios Bakirtzis Earns James G. Simmonds Fellowship

Congratulations to Georgios Bakirtzis, who has earned the James G. Simmonds Fellowship in Applied Mechanics and Applied Mathematics Research. Bakirtzis is a Ph.D. student in computer engineering at the University of Virginia.

Opportunities to pursue research in cyber-physical systems safety and security under the auspices of the LINK LAB attracted Bakirtzis to UVA. “The possibility of collaboration with a diverse and large group of graduate students working in the cyber-physical systems field was very exciting,” Bakirtzis said. Bakirtzis is advised by Cody Fleming, now associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State and founding member of the interdisciplinary Link Lab for Cyber-physical Systems at the University of Virginia.

Bakirtzis’ research focuses on compositionality in cyber-physical systems: ensuring that the behavior of the whole is determined by the behavior of its building blocks, particularly as it applies to safety and security evaluation. Bakirtzis’ study of compositionality led him to the mathematical field of applied category theory. With support from Fleming and UVA’s computer engineering program, Bakirtzis applied and gained entrance into the Applied Category Theory Adjoint School, hosted at the University of Oxford. This was an intensive learning experience that paired young researchers with established researchers to work on questions, problems and conjectures in applied category theory.

Bakirtzis uses category theory to make interconnections between design and assessment models more explicit. “While composition in cyber-physical models associates strongly with functional models of behavior, I hypothesize that composition is extendable to physical, mathematical, and computational modeling, and that composition exists amongst these models as well.” Bakirtzis said. If his theory is correct, his research points to new modeling languages that could totally define system behavior through its sub-systems. One byproduct of this theory is that it would be possible to mathematically constrain system parts in ways that impose safety constraints on the system as a whole.

Bakirtzis is a 2019-2020 recipient of the William L. Ballard Jr. Endowed Fellowship, which honors graduate students in engineering who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership qualities and financial need. He has also earned two awards for excellence in teaching. Bakirtzis expects to graduate in May 2021 and plans to pursue his research as a post-doc. “I particularly enjoy teaching and want to continue learning and working at the cutting edge of my field,” Bakirtzis said. “Academia seems like the right environment to nurture these ambitions. I look forward to furthering and sharing my knowledge at the intersection of formal methods and cyber-physical systems modeling.”