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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. Jochen Hoenicke, Dominik Klumpp, Vincent Langenfeld,
Tanja Schindler (contact person for organisational matters)
Kick-off meeting
Friday, May 15, 2020, 14:00 - 16:00
If you are interested in the proseminar or seminar, please make sure to apply for the respective course via HISinOne by Wednesday, May 13, 2020. You will receive an invitation link for the kick-off meeting by e-mail.
Regular meetings (talks)
We will have weekly sessions on Fridays 14:00 - 16:00 in the second half of the semester.
You can find the tentative schedule below.
Presentation language
English (Seminar) / German (Proseminar)
3 (Proseminar, Seminar PO2020) / 4 (Seminar)
Course Catalog Advanced Topics in Automata Theory (Seminar)
Klassische Themen der Automatentheorie (Proseminar)


  • July 03, 2020: The talk on "Petri nets" has been moved from time slot C to D.
  • July 01, 2020: The review plan has been slightly changed. The concerned students have been informed.
  • June 26, 2020: Today we will have the first three talks.
  • June 04, 2020: Updated schedule / information on the topics.
  • June 04, 2020: Updated information on abstract submission and feedback for your proposal:
    Abstract submission: together with the slides (instead of together with the proposal).
    Feedback for your proposal: you receive two reviews from other participants (unchanged), and you have a meeting with your supervisor (instead of receiving a review).
  • May 15, 2020: Added list of available topics.
  • May 14, 2020: You should have received an invitation for the kick-off meeting. If not, please contact Tanja.
  • May 4, 2020: Webpage online. Please make sure to check for updates before May 11.

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 to obtain a topic. You may suggest three of the available topics and provide a priorization for each topic. You may also suggest a topic by yourself 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. You submit your proposal via email to your supervisor (deadline: three weeks before your talk).
  • You have a meeting with your supervisor in which you get feedback for your proposal (deadline: two weeks before your talk).
  • Your proposal is reviewed by 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 together with an abstract of your talk 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) / 25 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 should contain at least:

  • 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.

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

The topics of the proseminar are based on the book Automatentheorie und Logik by Hofmann and Lange. The book and some of the papers for the seminar are only available via the university network (e.g., via vpn). If you have problems accessing the literature, please contact us.

Schwache Monadische Logik zweiter Stufe (P)

  • Talk: Jelle
  • Supervisor: Jochen
  • Reviewers: Tino, Haithem
  • Time slot: A
  • Literature: Chapter 2

Alternierende endliche Automaten (P)

  • Talk: Daniel
  • Supervisor: Tanja
  • Reviewers: Jelle, Vanessa
  • Time slot: A
  • Literature: Chapter 3

Sternfreie Sprachen (P)

  • Talk: Tino
  • Supervisor: Prof. Podelski
  • Reviewers: Daniel, Darius
  • Time slot: A
  • Literature: Chapter 4

Automaten auf unendlichen Wörtern (P)

  • Talk: Janek
  • Supervisor: Vincent
  • Reviewers: Leonardo, Vanessa
  • Time slot: B
  • Literature: Chapter 5

Weitere Akzeptanzbedingungen (P)

  • Talk: Leonardo
  • Supervisor: Tanja
  • Reviewers: Tino, Janek
  • Time slot: B
  • Literature: Chapter 7

Entscheidungsverfahren für ω-Automaten (P)

  • Talk: Darius
  • Supervisor: Dominik
  • Reviewers: Leonardo, Daniel
  • Time slot: C
  • Literature: Chapter 9

Linearzeit-Temporale Logik (P)

  • Talk: Haithem
  • Supervisor: Vincent
  • Reviewers: Janek, Darius
  • Time slot: C
  • Literature: Chapter 11

Automaten auf endlichen Bäumen (P)

  • Talk: Vanessa
  • Supervisor: Prof. Podelski
  • Reviewers: Jelle, Haithem
  • Time slot: D
  • Literature: Chapter 12

Petri nets (S)

Learning finite automata (S)

Cellular automata (S)

  • Talk: Nicola
  • Supervisor: Tanja
  • Reviewers: Moreno, Lukas
  • Time slot: F
  • Literature: Cellular automata

Forkable regular expressions (S)


Each topic/talk has a group letter assigned. We have six groups 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  Outline  Proposal Review Slides Talk
 29.05.2020 A

  F E
     F  E D
 24.07.2020        F E
 31.07.2020         F