New HLS technique recognized in Patrick Denantes Memorial Prize 2021

Lana Josipović © Lana Josipović / EPFL 2021

Lana Josipović © Lana Josipović / EPFL 2021

Lana Josipović, who, during her thesis developed a new way to generate efficient circuits from software programs, has won the annual Patrick Denantes Memorial Prize, awarded to a doctoral student in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences for their outstanding thesis. 

As computing devices continue to revolutionize communications and becomes part of almost everything we do in our modern daily lives, there is a growing need to use specialized hardware accelerators, such as Field-Programmable Gate Arrays, as they offer high processing capabilities and energy efficiency. However, the difficulty of hardware design prevents their global success and widespread usage.

High-level synthesis (HLS) tools generate digital hardware designs from high-level programming languages and promise to liberate designers from low-level hardware description details. Yet, HLS tools produce acceptable results only for certain classes of applications - generating good circuits still requires tedious code restructuring and hardware design expertise.

“This problem inspired the work of my thesis. I developed a new HLS technique that automatically generates high-performance circuits from software programs and achieves behaviors that are beyond the capabilities of standard HLS tools, enabling various programmers to benefit from hardware acceleration,” said Josipović, who completed the work in the Processor Architecture Lab under the supervision of Prof. Paolo Ienne.

Josipović, who has just been appointed as Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Digital Systems and Design Automation in the Computer Engineering and Networks Laboratory at ETH Zurich, says it’s a great honor to win the prize and a wonderful acknowledgement of her PhD work.

“My research goal is to bridge the gap between software and hardware by developing language abstractions, compiler flows, and hardware devices that enable software developers from different domains to accelerate emerging compute-intensive applications. I hope that my work opens new doors for specialized computing and helps us to keep up with the rapidly increasing computational demands of the 21st century.”

Professor Paolo Ienne was Josipović’s PhD supervisor and says it’s always a delight to see the hard work of students recognized. “The exponential increase in computational demand won’t stop any time soon, yet we know that in the coming years transistors will stop shrinking and getting faster. Better and smaller transistors are the key technological ingredient that have propelled the advances of computing machines for decades so, if this evolution now stops we will need new, more efficient computing paradigms instead. Nobody quite knows what these will be but there are reasons to believe that designing efficient circuits, instead of programs, may be part of the recipe. If this is true, Lana’s work may be foundational to that evolution.”

ThisMemorial Prize was created in 2010 to honor the memory of Patrick Denantes, a doctoral student in Communication Systems at EPFL who tragically died in a climbing accident in 2009. It is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding doctoral thesis from the School of Computer and Communication Sciences. The prize is awarded by a jury and presented to the laureate at the School’s end-of-year event. Financial sponsorship is provided by the Denantes family and the Nokia Research Center.

Author: Tanya Petersen

Source: Prizes and awards

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