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Automata Theory

In the lecture about theoretical computer science you have seen finite automata, pushdown automata and Turing machines. All three of them operate on finite words. However there are other automata models and automata that do not operate on finite words, but e.g. on infinite words, on nested words, on trees, etc. In this seminar we will have a look at automata models that you have not seen in the lecture on theoretical computer science as well as on related topics.

Course type Seminar / Proseminar
Instructors Prof. Dr. Andreas Podelski, Dr. Matthias Heizmann, Marius Greitschus, Alexander Nutz, Christian Schilling
Kick-off meeting
Thu, 26 April 2018, 17:00-18:00 c.t., Building 052, SR 02-017
Regular meetings (talks)
Every Tuesday, 16-18, c.t., Building 052, SR 02-017, starting Tue 26.6.2018
Presentation language
English (Seminar) / German (Proseminar)
4 (Seminar) / 3 (Proseminar)
Course Catalog Advanced Topics in Automata Theory (Seminar)
Automatentheorie / Introduction to Automata Theory (Proseminar)


  • (20.6.2018) The talks start next week! Updated info (see also row "Regular meetings" in the table above): We will meet every Tuesday in 52-01-017, at 4pm, c.t.
  • (28.5.2018) Changed target length of Proseminar talks from 25 to 22 minutes.
  • (9.5.2018) Assignment of students to topics, supervisors, groups completed. Tentative schedule added (see bottom of this page).
  • (26.04.2018) If you want to participate, please send an email to Marius and Alexander until 7.5.2018. The mail should contain at least three topics that you would be willing to present. You may give priorities for the topics. Also let us know if you have strong preferences on when the seminar talks should be held. (Default is the time given in the course catalog, during the last weeks of the semester.)
  • topics are online
  • website is online

Process of the seminar

  • You participate in the kick-off meeting, where we present the available topics. Feel free to hand in your favorite topic in advance.
  • You contact the instructors (Marius and Alexander) to obtain a topic. You may suggest three topics from below and provide a priorization for each topic. You may also suggest a topic by yourself, pick one of the suggested topics, or find a topic suitable for you in a discussion with your supervisor.
  • You have a meeting with your supervisor in which we discuss relevant literature and develop a very coarse sketch of your talk (deadline: four weeks before your talk).
  • You write a proposal in which you explain what you are going to present in your talk, together with an abstract of your talk. You submit your abstract and your proposal via email to your supervisor (deadline: three weeks before your talk).
  • Your proposal is reviewed by your supervisor and two other participants.
  • You write two reviews about other participants' proposals and send them via email to the supervisor (deadline: one week after you received the proposal).
  • You receive reviews for your proposal (deadline: two weeks before your talk).
  • You submit your slides via email to your supervisor (deadline: one week before your talk).
  • You have a meeting with your supervisor in which you get feedback for your slides.
  • You give a talk of 30 minutes (Seminar) / 22 minutes (Proseminar).
  • You attend the talks of all other participants.

Proposals of the talk

The proposal should consist of around five pages in which you explain what you are going to present in your talk. The proposal may contain:

  • short overview for the reviewers (the reviewers will probably not know your topic)
  • structure of your talk
  • aspects of the topic that you present (why?) and ignore (why?)
  • examples occurring in the talk (why these examples? Is there a running example that can be used for demonstration?)
  • which definitions are presented formally? (why?), which definitions are just mentioned informally? (why?)
  • which notation is used? (why?)
  • which theorems are presented, which of them will be proven (why?), which proofs will be omitted (why?), will you use motivating examples in the proof?

Abstract of the talk

  • The abstract consists of one paragraph that summarizes what you present in the talk.
  • We will send an invitation for the seminar to all students and members of our chair. This invitation contains the abstracts of all talks.

The talk

  • The goal of your talk is that the audience (bachelor and master students, familiar with computer science in general, probably no experts in the topic) has the possibility to learn something new about an interesting topic. How well you achieved this goal will determine the grade of your talk.
  • In a seminar you have to show that you are able to present some topic to other people. You do not have to show how well you understood the topic for yourself. How well you understood the topic has no direct influence on your grade, but only how well you presented the topic to the audience.
  • You may use and copy any source of information (but do not forget to cite it). If you think your talk is just a "remix" of existing talks tailored to your audience, you might have done a great job. But do not let yourself be fooled by well-structured and fancy talks found in the web, each talk was prepared to a specific audience.
  • If you agree, we will put your slides on this web page. Keep in mind that if you have copied images in your slides this might not be possible anymore (copyright restrictions). Of course, it will not have any effect on your grade whether we may publish your slides or not.

Review of the proposal

  • Give a short summary of the talk based on the proposal (to detect misunderstandings right at the start).
  • Be generous with your criticism. It is very unlikely that a student will get a bad grade because you revealed some problems in his/her proposal. However, it is very likely that a student will get a better grade if he/she was able to resolve a problem in his/her talk, thanks to your review.
  • Give reasons for your criticism (e.g., "It is not possible to understand Lemma 2 because term foo was not explained.").  You are also allowed to give your personal opinions, if you do so mark them as such (e.g., "Theorem 1 is very difficult to understand, in my opinion you should give an example first.").
  • The following questions might be helpful to write your review
Is the proposal sufficiently well written to be readable?
Is the appearance and structure of the proposal appropriate?
Is the comprehensibility of the talk supported by relevant examples and figures?
Is the proposed structure of the talk sensible and balanced?
Are all propositions made by the author correct?
Is the line of reasoning concerning the presentation complete and accurate?
Has the author argued his/her case effectively?
Does the author use the common notation and terminology? Where would you suggest something different?
Is the schedule of the author sensible? Do you think the talk will fit into the time slot?


Your overall grade will be composed according to the following proportion.

  • 10% grade of your proposal
  • 20% grade of your reviews
  • 70% grade of your talk

Topics & literature

There is not a one-to-one correspondence between seminar talks and topics. Several students may give talks on the same topic, but present different aspects. The suggested literature should give you a first impression of the topics. We assign the exact literature in cooperation with you after you stated your preferences for the topic. More literature does not mean more reading, just more options. The order of appearance is arbitrary.

If requested, some topics may also be presented in groups of two.

Some of the papers are only available via the network of our university (e.g., via vpn). If you have some problem accessing the papers, please ask us.

Some topics are seminar-only topics (marked "(S)"), some are proseminar-only topics (marked "(P)"). Some can be both ("(P+S)").

(P+S) Petri nets

(P) Tree automata

(S) Counter automata

(P) Büchi automata

(P) Family of DFAs

  • Literature: MFCS '16
  • Supervisor: Christian
  • Talk: Mehdi
  • Group: B
  • Reviewers: Ioannis, Alexander H.

(S) Fairness modulo theory: A new approach to LTL software model checking

  • Literature:
  • Supervisor: Vincent
  • Talk: Victor
  • Group: B
  • Reviewers: Manuel, Yannick

(S) Set automata

  • Supervisor: Alexander
  • Talk: Yannick
  • Group: C
  • Reviewers: Manuel, Victor

(P) Learning finite automata

(P) Timed automata

  • Literature: Olderog, E.-R. and Dierks, H. (2008).Real-TimeSystems-Formal Specification and Automatic Verification. Cambridge University Press, Kapitel 4 "Timed Automata"
  • Supervisor: Vincent
  • Talk: Alexander H.
  • Group: D
  • Reviewers: Alexander S., Daniel

(P) Introduction to hybrid automata

Unassigned Topics


(S) Automata with lookahead

(S) Language approximation

(S) Model checking regular language constraints

(P) NFA minimization with BDDs

(P) NFA minimization with SAT

(S) Minimum-Cost reachability for Price Timed Automata

(S) Maximizer Trajectories of Affine Dynamics for Reachability

(S) Counterexample-guided refinement of template Polyhedra

(P, S) Applying Tree Automata for separation logic


Each topic/talk has a group letter assigned. We have four slots in total.

The following table contains the deadlines for the groups. Please note that "Review" stands for the review deadline for the specific group's proposals. Each (pro)seminar student has to write reviews for two other students.

Date Proposal Review Slides Talk
Tue, June 5
Tue, June 12
Tue, June 19
Tue, June 26
Tue, July 3
Tue, July 10
 Tue, July 17
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