Sunday, May 13, 2007

The End of an Era

Last Friday I heard from Wan Fokkink that Jaco van de Pol will become a professor in Twente after the summer (as a successor of Ed Brinksma, who is now the director of the Embedded Systems Institute in Eindhoven). Congratulations to Jaco.

A byproduct of Jaco's move to Twente is that the process algebra group at CWI, which over the years has been headed by Jos Baeten, Frits Vaandrager, Jan Friso Groote, Wan Fokkink, and finally Jaco van de Pol, will be terminated. It is a fact of life that all (good) things must eventually come to an end, but I cannot help but feel that this is truly the end of an era.

The work of the process algebra group at CWI has played a major role in my scientific development, and I have had the pleasure to collaborate on various projects with several of its leaders mentioned above. (Disclaimer: The process algebra group at CWI is not responsible for the outcome of my work :-)) I like to think that the legacy of that group will be felt for many years to come. Indeed, one of the signs of its impact on Dutch computer science is the fact that all of its leaders over the years are now professors and leaders of strong research groups in some of the best Dutch universities.

Even though my work owes a lot to the intellectual inspiration of the process algebra group at CWI, I only visited CWI once in September 2005, and then only for a day to deliver a talk in the well-known PAM series---well, well-known amongst process algebraists. I guess that this indicates how little I travel around, and that one can be influenced by the work carried out at an institution without having ever visited it. (As another example, I owe a great debt to the Edinburgh concurrency school, but I have never visited Edinburgh.)

I vividly recall that, while introducing my talk at CWI, I paraphrased a famous sentence by the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni and said that I felt that I had finally gone to Amsterdam to wash my process algebra clothes in the Amstel. With the demise of the process algebra group at CWI, it will unfortunately become a lot harder to wash my process algebra clothes in the Amstel.

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