Professor Gorlatch speaks about parallel programming, some peculiarities of the German educational system, and his love for St. Petersburg
A professor from the University of Münster (Germany) visited ETU “LETI” to give a course on parallel programming.
The purpose of the visit to ETU “LETI” by Professor Sergei Gorlatch, Head of the Department at the University of Münster, was to give a course on modern multi-core processors and parallel programming and develop collaboration in different research areas. In the interview, he speaks about the importance of parallel programming and collaboration with ETU “LETI” researchers and his love for the Northern Capital of Russia.
– Mr. Gorlatch, we are very happy to see you at ETU “LETI.” Your Russian language is very good; do you have Russian roots?
– I was born in Kyiv and graduated with honors from Kyiv State University, defended PhD thesis and then worked as a senior researcher in the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences in Ukraine and belonged to the department of the University founder Victor Glushkov. In 1991, I was awarded the prize of the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and then decided to travel to the Technical University of Munich in Germany for research. That was the time when the Soviet Union disintegrated and it was not clear at the moment what to do next. Originally, I did not plan to do that, but in 1992, I got the position of the assistant at the University of Passau in Bavaria, where I worked for eight years and acquired a high academic qualification in Germany in the field of teaching (so-called habilitation). After that, I was awarded the rank of Professor at the Technical University of Berlin, where I worked for 3 years.
– Please tell us about the university where you work now. What are your scientific and professional interests?
– In the last 16 years, I have been working as a Professor and Head of the Department at the University of Münster. It is one of the largest Universities in Germany (more than 40 000 students) and is located in the town of Munster. The sphere of my academic and professional interests is connected with a software of high-performance computer systems.
– You give lectures on parallel programming for students of the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology. What is the importance of this area for researchers?
– Parallel programming is now a very promising and important area in the field of software development. Nowadays, all modern processors are multi-core and even the processor of a home computer has at least four cores, some of the processors have 8, 12, and more. And these cores have to function in a parallel way. Nowadays, all graphical processors have 1000-2000 small processors inside one processor and they can work consecutively, but only if you provide software, which will make them work this way. We need to teach students to produce such computer programs (and this is not a very easy task!) and this is one of my main missions at ETU “LETI.”
– You have been working in the German higher education system for more than 20 years. Are there any differences between students at LETI and the University of Münster?
– There is no much difference. Students can interrupt me during the lecture and always ask questions and have discussions. ETU “LETI” has very active students and we often discuss different details and communicate with each other. My exams show how students have learned the material of my lectures; this time the exam has been quite long and has taken more than 90 minutes.
– What modern educational techniques do you use in your University?
– We realize that only some of the graduates will join the academic community and most of them are going to work in software development companies. Therefore, we try to combine an academic basis with practical skills. We organize project workshops for software development, where a group of 12 students has to produce an extensive software package. The whole group is split into teams of 3-4 persons - this is how software products are developed in the company today.
During the term, we teach students to work together in the team and between teams. Half-year they work together and finally they produce software for the defense of the project. These are the first skills of joint teamwork and project management, which will be very helpful when students leave the university and join companies. Such project workshops are for both bachelor and master students, i.e. each master graduate has to undergo two project workshops.
– What are your impressions of ETU “LETI”? What do you like most?
– I am here for the first time as a lecturer, but this is not my first visit to ETU “LETI.” Your University is very beautiful and the architecture is fantastic. However, the buildings themselves seem a little entangled and it is sometimes not very easy to find the right way from one building to another. During my visit to ETU “LETI,” your colleagues kindly helped me to find the way; otherwise, I would probably have been lost. You also have very kind and understanding staff who are always ready to help. I would like to express my kind gratitude to Assistant Professor Dmitry Klionskiy and Mr. Vladimir Konkin and, of course, my good colleague for research and co-author of my papers, Professor Ivan Kholod.
– What do you think about future collaboration with ETU “LETI” in the field of science and education?
– In the last few years, we have been working together with Professor Ivan Kholod, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology. The area of your interests is connected with Big Data. Nowadays, different cameras and sensors register big arrays of data and these arrays have to be processed efficiently, and we also have to extract knowledge from them. We have already co-authored several joint papers, and one of them has recently been introduced at the international conference in Alma-Ata. We are definitely going to continue our research in this area.
If students find my lectures interesting and useful for future professional activities, I will be very happy to continue my collaboration with the University as a lecturer. This time I have been invited to give lectures for international students of ETU “LETI” (master’s program “Computer Science and Knowledge Discovery”). Therefore, all the material is given in Russian. I hope in the future, Russian students will also show interest in this topic.
– What are your general impressions of St.Petersburg? Do you have your favorite places?
– The whole city is one of my favorite places on Earth! Every time I come here, I find a nice place to live in the center of this great city and the surroundings are magnificent! I enjoy theatres and I have twice visited Lensoviet Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theatre, and Mariinsky Theater - my leisure time in your city is full of different exciting activities. St.Petersburg has a great many museums, and I hope I will have many more chances in the future to enjoy its atmosphere!
Comments of Ivan Kholod, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology, Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering
The visit of Professor Gorlatch at our faculty is very important due to the development of research connections. Our collaboration once started from joint research and now has been extended to new educational activities. In the future, we plan to develop collaboration in the field of science and education.
Comments of Dmitry Klionskiy, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology for International Affairs, Head of the master’s program “Computer Science and Knowledge Discovery”
The visit of Professor Gorlatch is very important for the English-taught master’s program “Computer Science and Knowledge Discovery”: students have extended their knowledge and acquired new experience of communicating with a foreign professor. The course “Architecture of Parallel Systems” of the master’s program has been improved due to the contribution of Professor Gorlatch. In the future, we are also going to extend international connections with European universities.