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Remembering Valérie Issarny

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Valérie Issarny

Computer scientist Valérie Issarny, a director of research at France's National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA) and chair of the ACM Europe Council since October 2021, passed away November 12, 2022.

Issarny's research focused on the use of middleware solutions to ease the development of distributed collaborative services, including mobile services deployed over smartphones and interacting with sensors and actuators.

In 1991, Issarny received a Ph.D. in computer science from France's University of Rennes. She then spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.

The following year, Issarny joined INRIA in Rennes, France, as a junior research scientist. She moved to Inria Paris in Rocquencourt, France, in 1999, and became a research director there in 2001.

From 2002 to 2013, Issarny led the ARLES research team of 15 researchers and engineers at Inria that investigated distributed software systems leveraging wirelessly networked devices, with a special emphasis on service-oriented systems. From 2013 to 2018, she also acted as scientific coordinator of the Inria@SiliconValley program, whose mission is to promote and foster collaboration between Inria and California universities.

Additionally, Issarny coordinated CityLab@Inria, an initiative on smart cities that promoted citizen engagement, which was developed in close collaboration with researchers of CITRIS, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

Among her many distinctions, Issarny received one of the "12 Etoiles de l'Europe," an award bestowed by the French Ministry of Research in recognition of her research accomplishments. In 2014, she was made a Knight of France's Legion d'honneur for her contribution to higher education and research.

Issarny also had an entrepreneurial flair and started two companies: Ambientic, a spin-off based on Inria ARLES' research that developed mobile collaborative applications, and Ambiciti, a start-up that provided a real-time analysis of air and noise pollution.

Issarny also supervised more than 30 Ph.D. students who were working on theses in the software engineering and distributed systems/middleware domains.

"My Ph.D. under Valérie's supervision was an extraordinary experience," recalled Sonia Ben Mokhtar, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). "Valérie was honest in saying what she thought," and while that sometimes was a bit tough, in the end you knew the truth, said Ben Mokhtar. "She was a real mentor to me, and she will be missed very much."

"Valérie was a mentor and an example for all the colleagues in the Inria ARLES research team that she directed," said Nikolaos Georgantas, a research scientist at Inria Paris and current leader of the MiMove team, the successor of the Inria project-team ARLES.

Georgantas said Issarny was the cornerstone of the ARLES team, even when it evolved to become the MiMove team. He described her as deeply human and benevolent, always ready to encourage and support the people around her with the simplicity and warmth that characterized her nature.

"Valérie had a clear vision and a sharp instinct for research. She had a natural talent for leadership," Georgantas said. "She was straightforward and did not hesitate to speak unfiltered—but always truthfully—even to people close to her."

"Valérie was an excellent researcher with a research profile that spanned different application areas," said Paola Inverardi, a professor at Italy's University of L'Aquila. "She was able to address the emerging problems caused by the rapid digitalization of the world."

In addition, Inverardi said, "She was my French friend with a radiant smile, who was sharp and critical but supportive, and was direct and genuinely honest in any discussion. Working with Valérie was a pleasure and fun."

To Gordon Blair, a professor at Lancaster University in the U.K., "Valérie was one of the most influential researchers of her time in this area, having made numerous important contributions."

Blair said Issarny led an internationally recognized research group at Inria that focused on middleware, and made important contributions to the areas of mobile middleware, service-oriented computing, and self-organization/adaptive middleware.

Blair described Issarny as "a great friend. I will miss her deeply—as will many others in the Inria family, in the middleware community, and right across the international computer science community."

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