On Tuesday 13 September 2022, Anna Latour successfully defended her dissertation in the Great Auditorium of Leiden’s beautiful (and ancient) Academy Building.
Anna’s dissertation, titled “Optimal decision-making under constraints and uncertainty”, was formally approved by her doctorate committee in February. Now, finally, was her time to defend it to a committee of opponents. She is the first of prof. Hoos’s doctorate students from ADA Leiden to receive her title.
In true Leiden tradition, the ceremony was solemn, but festive. Anna’s opponents (prof. Plaat, dr. Van Leeuwen, prof. Kersting, prof. Stuckey, prof. Bonsangue, and prof. Kleijn) questioned her on the semantics and pros and cons of different probabilistic languages, deep learning, the interpretation of probabilities in logic, the choking hazards presented by printed copies of dissertations, adversarial settings in stochastic constraint (optimisation) problems, and the use of gradient methods in constraint solving. This resulted in a good discussion, characterised by mutual respect and a sense of humour. In good COVID practice, the ceremony was hybrid, with two opponents and even a paranimph participating virtually from Germany, Australia and Canada, and with all in-person attendees wearing masks. Anna’s promotores, prof. Hoos and prof. Kok, as well as her co-promotor dr. Nijssen were present in person.
The discussion was ended by a loud “Hora Est!” from the Beadle, after which the committee left the room for deliberation. Upon their return, it was prof. Hoos’s duty to speak the “magic formula” that promoted Anna to doctor in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences. This has to be done in Dutch, and since it was his first time promoting a student to doctor in the Netherlands, he was somewhat nervous. He did well, and Anna received her certificate (with a giant seal!) from professor Kleijn, the doctorate committee’s secretary.
Anna’s co-promotor, dr. Nijssen, then praised her in his laudatio for being a scientist with many talents, stating that she has proved not only her scientific competence by earning her doctorate, but also demonstrated her proficiency at writing, presenting and teaching, by winning awards and scholarships for all of those skills during her time as a PhD candidate.
Following the ceremony, we had a reception in the beautiful atrium of the Academy Building, with a view of the spiral staircase, surrounded by the busts of dead scientists. Afterwards, the freshly minted doctor, her (co-)promotores, her opponents and her paranimph went for an Italian lunch and a chat about the future.
The ancient Romans held a feast in honour of the gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva (Epulum Jovis) on the 13th of September. We think it is only fitting that, on a day that celebrates the Goddess of Knowledge (who adorns Leiden University’s logo), Leiden University gains another female doctor, from a research group named after the Godmother of Programming. Gaudeamus Igitur!
The next step in Anna’s career is a postdoctoral position as Research Fellow in prof. Meel’s group at the School of Computing of the National University of Singapore. She is working on problems in the field of “Beyond NP”, focusing on (optimisation versions of) Boolean satisfiability, and counting. You can follow her and her career through her website.
You can download dr. Latour’s dissertation from the Leiden University dissertation repository.