CSC News

February 23, 2016

Mueller Honored as IEEE Fellow for Achievements in Timing Analysis Research

Dr. Frank Mueller, professor of Computer Science at North Carolina State University, has received the distinguished honor from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), by being voted an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to real time, embedded systems, and timing analysis research.
Mueller is now the seventh IEEE Fellow in his department, joining Drs. George Rouskas, Harry Perros, Donald Bitzer, Wushow “Bill” Chou, Mladen Vouk, and Munindar Singh, who have been selected between the years of 1982-2011.
“In the Computer Science Department, I wear many different hats when it comes to research,” Mueller said.  “I build software for both large-scaled systems and small embedded devices.  A lot of it is nitty gritty work but I enjoy the interaction with students, as well as doing the work myself.”
A typical example of the nitty gritty would be systems in peril, involving super computers with 10,000 computers in a server room and Mueller’s team orchestrates them to solve one problem.
“The computers look at very critical issue such as CFD codes – we look at air flow over a wing of an airplane, to see if there is enough lift, low wind resistance, if it is optimized for fuel consumption, etcetera,” he said.
Not only does Mueller look at systems in peril, he looks at systems that are yet to be developed. His work with National Labs often has him helping industry partners in designing their next system.
“Every three to five years, the labs buy new machines and need software that is larger than what they are currently using,” he said. “No one has that software, so we have to develop it. Some of the challenges include resiliencies – when things go wrong in one computer whose result the others depend on, we adapt to keep the others going, and figure out how to still get a result in the end.”
Mueller is also known for his creativity of constructing his own supercomputing environment by using multiple Sony PS3 gaming units. His creative construction was featured in a segment of National Public Radio in 2007.
“It was supercomputing on the cheap,” he said.  “It is perfect for the educational setting, where we are always looking for ways to do things without having additional funding. By networking multiple PS3 gaming units together with LINUX, I was able to recreate a computer scenario similar to large scale computing in a lab.”
Mueller has always been interested in pushing the envelope with regards to computers. His range has been from the largest systems that are being operated to the very smallest systems that are embedded in systems – like cars, home security systems and such.
“Those systems are ever-evolving and changing. It is more often that we look at the embedded systems because these are the types of systems that are in automotive and avionics.  It is critical that these systems are programmed to do the right things or it could have catastrophic results,” he said.
Another new technology that Mueller is addressing is persistent storage.
“Currently, if your desktop loses power, you lose the work you have done on your document. If the battery goes dead, everything is gone,” he said. “Persistent storage means that once I create a new value for something, it is automatically stored. We are currently looking at persistent memory technology and how to integrate this into every technology. We would have to look at how to change programming as it is currently done.”
Mueller credits NC State for his many opportunities to collaborate with other universities and labs, as well as his success at receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and also from industries to spearhead many interesting projects.
Originally from Germany, Mueller completed his undergraduate work at the Technical University of Berlin and earned his Master’s and PhD degrees from Florida State University. After graduating, he returned to Germany for a brief stint at a university, but soon returned to the U.S. to work at Livermore Laboratories.  It wasn’t long though, that Mueller realized his true calling.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in a research lab or go back into academia, “he said.  “I realized that I really missed the student interaction of being at the university while working at Livermore and began to consider universities as my next career path.”
Mueller’s record of student advisees speaks to his passion for mentoring and teaching. Not only does Mueller advise PhD students, he actively uses MS students in his work and finds their passion and commitment to their projects just as exciting as his PhD students.
“I probably do have a longer than average list of student advisees but that is because I mix up my research group with both levels of graduate students,” he said. “Not only is the additional help of the master’s students good for research, it is a great pipeline for talented students who want to work in industry rather than academia.”
Mueller has noticed it is also good for the companies in which they work. They actively seek NC State Master’s students who have had the hands on experience that Mueller has provided them.
“The companies come for the career fairs looking for these students, which I jokingly call my ‘repeat offenders’,’’ he said with a laugh. “Very often companies have hired previous students who have had the industry exposure while in graduate school and they are very specific in asking for similar students because they make such good employees.”
Not only does Mueller think a good balance of graduate and doctoral students works well in the lab, he thinks a balance of fun and work is just as important to his success.  He credits his wife and daughter as his touchstone for a happy life, mixed in with a bit of fun on the side.
“It is very important to me to balance personal and professional life,” he said. “And that is family, the ability to do sports like biking and windsurfing, as well as going to the beach regularly to recharge. I may be doing some work as well while sitting on the beach, but balance is a huge factor in being able to handle the demands of the office.”

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