Benedikt Brückner joined our group in October 2021 as a Safe and Trusted AI PhD student. Since he hadn’t been introduced on our website yet, we caught up with him to find out about his background and what he does in his spare time.

Where are you from and what is your background?

I grew up in the Palatinate region in southwest Germany, a quaint region mostly popular among tourists and wine enthusiasts. Afterwards, I studied a bachelor’s and master’s in Industrial Engineering and Management at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. During my bachelor’s degree I was mostly interested in optimisation, so for my final thesis I looked at how a company I worked with could best solve their machine scheduling problems. During my master’s my interests shifted more towards machine learning, so I ended up looking at Siamese Neural Networks for classification tasks as part of my master’s thesis.

What influenced you to do a PhD and what are your research interests?

I really enjoyed the research I did while completing my degrees! That means both of the theses I wrote, but I also worked as a student research assistant in the operations research area. I didn’t know much about AI Safety and verification before discovering the SAIL (formerly VAS) group, but when reading some papers I found the way in which research in this area combines optimisation concepts to formally verify the safety of AI models very interesting! I now look at the verification of neural networks, mostly focusing on Semidefinite Programming-based verification since it provides very tight approximations of the activation functions used in neural networks.

So what do you do when you’re not in the office?

I really enjoy being outside and used to go mountain biking a lot, which is unfortunately quite difficult in London. Here, I’ve had to substitute my mountain bike for a nice folding bike which is quite convenient for commuting to uni and it also means I still get to cycle around a lot. Besides that, I enjoy playing tennis (and also watching some matches - being that close to Wimbledon does have its advantages!). After a few rainy weeks sailing the Baltic Sea I also obtained a sailing license in 2021 and quite enjoy spending some time on the water. When sailing around the Canary Islands last summer I definitely got to see some locations that wouldn’t have been accessible without a boat.