Grigori Fursin

Grigori Fursin shares how the city and the university helped to shape his personal and professional life.

Name Grigori Fursin 
Degree Course PhD in Computer Science
Year of Graduation 2004

Your time at the University

Image of Grigori Fursin

I have to admit that I discovered the University by pure luck and never regretted it! I originally planned to apply for a PhD program in computer science in the USA when one of my friends mentioned a new research project in Scotland. Since it looked like a perfect fit to my work and plans, I decided to read more about the University and was immediately impressed by its worldwide reputation, connections and exciting international research projects. I was even more amazed by all the notable alumni including Charles Darwin particularly since I was trying to understand the evolution of brain and enable adaptive computer systems. At the same time, I was just finishing reading Walter Scott's novel about Edinburgh, so I had a strange feeling of destiny, and it was not wrong!

Without exaggeration, I had one of the greatest times of my life while in Edinburgh. Fifteen years later I still remember  climbing the Arthur's seat for the first time, joining the Ghost tour, visiting National Museum of Scotland and the Castle, suddenly bumping into Sean Connery at the Royal Mile, strolling through Cowgate in a fog,  playing football in the Meadows, enjoying never ending festivals, freezing during Hogmanay, drinking tea and working in the Elephant House where J.K.Rowling wrote her first novels, watching FIFA world cup in Three Sisters, discovering the Highlands, trying to swim in Portobello, listening to bagpipers in Princess street, enjoying Military Tattoo, meeting great friends from all over the world, and eventually meeting my future wife!

Such a fantastic environment, together with world class research facilities, inspiring and supportive professors, independence and freedom of thinking, strong international collaborations, was a huge boost for my motivation, creativity and long-term research. Indeed, some of the interdisciplinary techniques and tools I proposed and started developing while in Edinburgh are now gaining popularity to enable open, collaborative and reproducible research. That is why I was so excited and happy to show the University and the city to all my colleagues and friends during CPC'01 conference which I helped to organize as a student volunteer! And even though I now left Edinburgh, I still take any opportunity to regularly come back and discuss new research ideas with my colleagues or visit my old friends!  

Your experiences since leaving the University

With a PhD degree in computer science from the University of Edinburgh one has multiple opportunities to pursue a career in leading high-tech companies or universities. At that time, I wanted to validate all my research ideas I got during my PhD work, so I preferred to stay in academia. However, I decided to move to another place to be able to try my hands in a totally different environment. In 2007, I got a tenured research position at INRIA (a leading French research institute) with a possibility to continue my own research on machine learning based software and hardware optimization and co-design.

Even after moving to France, I managed to preserve my connections with Edinburgh by setting up a joint and ambitious EU FP6 MILEPOST project to build the world's first machine learning based compiler. Only that, instead of unleashing our creativity and innovating, we started spending more and more time on ad-hoc management of growing number of ever changing hardware, tools, benchmarks, data sets, scripts, predictive models and experimental results ("big data"). At the same time, we had been struggling to find convenient ways to share, reproduce and reuse knowledge  across our work groups. 

Eventually, I attempted to solve all these fundamental problems with a radically new approach - in 2008, I opened a public web repository called cTuning while sharing all my research artefacts along with several open publications, and asking the community to help us validate results, crowd source experiments, collaboratively improve predictive models and find missing features. The popularity of this approach motivated me to establish a non-profit, the cTuning foundation, and support development of an open source technology that can improve the quality and reproducibility of our experimentation in close collaboration with the community, HiPEAC network of excellence, ACM, leading universities, companies and major conferences. Furthermore, a strong interest in this approach from industry motivated me to co-found a UK-based startup (dividiti) in 2015 to help companies accelerate their computer systems' research and reduce time to market for faster, smaller, more power efficient and reliable software and hardware using cTuning technology, predictive analytics and collective intelligence. 

I am very grateful to the University of Edinburgh for helping me kick start this very exciting long-term research endeavour!  

Alumni Wisdom

Use your time in Edinburgh wisely. Edinburgh is an excellent place not only for fun but also to kick-start your career and boost your research - do not waste this opportunity!

This article was first published in 2015. For updates on what Grigori is doing now, find his LinkedIn below.

Related links

Grigori Fursin on LinkedIn