First edition of the VCLA International Student Awards


Kuldeep S. Meel, Pablo Munoz, Luke Schaeffer, Sophie Spirkl

The highly successful first edition of the VCLA International Student Awards was concluded on Friday, May 15, 2015 with the celebration of four winners in two award categories. Out of 30 submissions in total, three were ranked equal for the Outstanding Master Thesis Award and one was selected for the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award by a committee consisting of twelve internationally recognized researchers. The award ceremony took place as part of the conference PhDs in Logic VII.

The VCLA Chairs Stefan Szeider and Helmut Veith congratulated the following award recipients:

Outstanding Master Thesis Award      

Kuldeep S. Meel (Thesis: Sampling Techniques for Boolean Satisfiability)

Luke Schaeffer (Thesis: Deciding Properties of Automatic Sequences)

Sophie Spirkl (Thesis: Boolean Circuit Optimization)

Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award

Pablo Muñoz (Thesis: New Complexity Bounds for Evaluating CRPQs with Path Comparisons)


The VCLA International Student Awards are given to authors of outstanding scientific works in the field of Logic and Computer Science. The call for nominations for the 2015 edition of the VCLA International Student Awards is now open – please click here for more information.

Short biographies

Luke Schaeffer

Having started his scientific career with improving one of the results by Donald Knuth, Luke Schaeffer completed his Bachelor of Mathematics degree in Computational Mathematics with a minor in Pure Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. His thesis in fulfillment of Master of Mathematics in Computer Science degree from the same University of Waterloo is titled “Deciding Properties of Automatic Sequences” and was supervised by Prof. Jeffrey Shallit, who called him “the strongest and most creative student [he] have worked with in 25 years.” Having faced his Waterloo and undefeated, he nevertheless surrendered to the lure of Computer Science and marched across the border to the East to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at MIT under the supervision of Prof. Scott Aaronson.

Sophie Spirkl

Sophie Spirkl completed her  Bachelor and Master of Science in the University of Bonn, Germany specialising in Mathematics, and is now a PhD Candidate for Applied and Computational Mathematics in Princeton University under the supervision of Professor Paul Seymour. Her thesis was carried out under the supervision of Prof. Stephan Held. This thesis, in the words of her supervisor, is revitalizing the field of adder design, which was considered a well-studied field. The talent of Sophie is witnessed by the many awards she was awarded, including the Prize for the Best Bachelor’s Students of the Bonn Mathematical Society,  academic excellence scholarships, prizes in mathematics competitions, and most recently a  Centennial Fellowship from Princeton University.

Kuldeep Meel

Kuldeep Meel completed his Bachelors of Technology with Honours in Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He is a co-recipient of the VCLA Outstanding Masters Thesis Award for his thesis from Rice University titled “Sampling Techniques for Boolean Satisfiability” under the supervision of Prof. Moshe Vardi and Prof. Supratik Chakraborty. He is currently reading for his PhD at Rice University under the same supervisors. His research interests fall into the intersection of machine learning, computer-aided verification and formal methods. He has several publications applying partition-based methods to the problems related to uniform generation and model counting in SAT related domains. Kuldeep has also contributed to several features on the mobile apps Tap Zoo and Tap Pet Hotel.

Pablo Muñoz

Pablo Muñoz Fuentes did his undergraduate studies in the University of Chile. He obtained in March 2014 the degree of  Mathematical Engineer  jointly from the University of Chile and the Ecole Centrale in Paris, France. His thesis was carried out under the supervision of Prof. Pablo Barcelo. It was published last year in the prestigious LICS conference – a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate thesis. Pablo participated during his undergraduate studies in a  research project at the Ecole Centrale in Paris on recognising objects within images, to be applied in oil well exploration. Pablo is now doing his graduate studies in Computer Science in the university of Chile, with Prof. Barcelo, and is working on a relatively new field, Dynamic Computational Complexity.