Department of Computer Science

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Obituary for Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang Rosenstiel

5.10.1954 – 19.8.2020

On August 19, 2020 in Tübingen, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Rosenstiel passed away after a long battle with illness. Wolfgang Rosenstiel was an established professor and directing chair for computer engineering department and dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Tübingen. In these and many other roles, he worked with admirable enthusiasm and principle up until his passing. In the recent years, he also played a major role in the positive development of both the faculty and department. With Wolfgang Rosenstiel, we are losing a highly esteemed colleague, an outstanding scientist and teacher, and a forward-looking and highly committed leader.

Born and raised in Geisingen, Germany, Wolfgang Rosenstiel studied computer science at the University of Karlsruhe (today KIT) in Germany and received his doctoral degree in 1984. His dissertation was on the topic “Synthesis of the data flow of digital circuits from formal functional descriptions” under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Detlef Schmid.

After a period as postdoctoral researcher at the TH Karlsruhe, Germany (1984-1986) and as head of the research group "Automation of Circuit Design" at the FZI Research Center for Information Technology (1986-1990), Wolfgang Rosenstiel was appointed chair of Computer Engineering at the University of Tübingen in 1990. In addition, he was accepted into the board of directors of the FZI in 1990 and fulfilled this task until his passing.

As a researcher, he was highly respected internationally, and he was significantly involved in shaping the German research landscape in electronic design automation. Prof. Rosenstiel was one of the pioneers in synthesizing digital circuits from algorithmic specifications. His research activities in the 1980s resulted in the high-level synthesis tool “Carlsruhe Digital Design sYstem (CADDY)” and the hardware description language “Digital Specification Language (DSL)”. CADDY was one of the world's earliest high-level synthesis systems for automated synthesis of digital hardware, such as microprocessors, from program-like behavioral descriptions. The high performance and the potential productivity benefits of the approach resulted in an early commercialization by Siemens Semiconductor (CALLAS). Later, he advocated the establishment of SystemC as a system-level language for virtual prototyping. As he broadened his interests, he proposed a highly reliable coarse-grained reconfigurable computer architecture, as well as system-on-chip platforms that can autonomously adapt to changing operating conditions.

Since the early 1990s, Prof. Rosenstiel produced progressive research on optimized usage of machine learning techniques in various technical and medical applications. He recognized early on the importance of machine learning for intelligent prosthesis control and brain computer interfaces. In particular, Prof. Rosenstiel caused international attention with his interdisciplinary research on invasive and non-invasive Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) and obtained the highly renowned ERC Advanced Grant on this topic in 2009. Recently, he had been researching the optimization of human-machine interaction, paving the way for today's fastest BCI as well as opening up application fields, such as the rehabilitation of stroke patients and the mental workload recognition.

His extraordinary, internationally recognized scientific expertise has led to an impressive number of academic services, including participation in the highly respected International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), supporting the establishment of important conferences, such as the “Design, Automation, and Test in Europe (DATE) Conference and Exhibition”, which is one of the major international conferences in the field of “Electronic Design Automation”, as well as his active engagement as General Chair (DATE 2007, EuroDAC 1997, HLSW 1992) and Program Chair (EuroDAC 1995, VLSI 1995, EuroDAC 1994, EDAC 1992) at various international conferences. He was also active as Editor-in-Chief of the Springer journal "Design Automation for Embedded Systems" and member of several editorial boards of scientific journals (e.g. ACM Transactions on Embedded Computing Systems).

His teaching activities focused on computer engineering, computer architecture, design and synthesis of microelectronic systems, neural networks in technical applications, and multimedia technology.

In 1990 Prof. Rosenstiel was appointed chair of Computer Engineering in the young computer science department at the University of Tübingen. As one of seven professors, he has been involved in developing computer science in Tübingen from the very beginning. Since then, Wolfgang Rosenstiel has taken on many different leadership roles at the University of Tübingen and has filled these roles with admirable professionalism, commitment and vision. He was Vice Dean and later Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science, which existed until 2002, and then became Managing Director of the Wilhelm Schickard Institute within the Faculty of Information and Cognitive Science.

As the first full-time dean of the Faculty of Science – a faculty the size of an independent university –founded in 2010, he was able to establish an active dean's office in a very short time, successfully developing the various departments and initiating important strategic decisions. Unbounded, Prof. Rosenstiel has worked at all levels in science, politics and business and has many impressive achievements. As Dean of the Faculty for Science, Prof. Rosenstiel has been responsible for over 100 appointment procedures for new professorships, and under his leadership, two clusters of excellence have been established in the Faculty: "Controlling Microbes to Fight Infections (CMFI)" and "Machine Learning: New Perspectives for Science".

Past and present, Wolfgang Rosenstiel has significantly contributed to the scientific landscape in Germany. He was a former committee member of the DFG senate and a scientific member of the authorizing committee for DFG Collaborative Research Centers. He was also on the Board of Directors at the FZI Research Center for Information Technology in Karlsruhe and Chairman of the Board of the edacentrum for "Electronic Design Automation". Through these networks, he has not only promoted scientific research, but also the systematic transfer of research to industry and SMEs. Recently, Wolfgang Rosenstiel played an active role in the founding of the Cyber Valley initiative. This effort combines the department of computer science and the MPI for Intelligent Systems and the University of Stuttgart to create one of the world's leading research locations in the field of machine learning.

The fact that he was able to organize all these activities simultaneously and advance them with so much enthusiasm and joy was one of his outstanding qualities that we will always remember.

Wolfgang Rosenstiel was very active in sports and an enthusiastic skier, tennis player and dancer. He combined this in an ideal way with his work. Already in the late 1980s he created the ski seminar as an internal retreat to bring the groups of the university and the FZI closer together. The aim was to present and discuss the latest results of research to a larger group and to define the next goals in one-to-one conversations. A further, equally important goal was encouraging as many participants as possible to ski and spend time together in the snow to strengthen the team spirit. In a funny mood he once said, “just as you are skiing, you are working, so if you are skiing fast, you are working fast”. He followed this idea himself and always made sure to be the first to get into the lift after a rapid descent. With his very structured, goal-oriented and creative manner, he supervised more than 120 doctorates. Many of his graduates now hold leading positions in industry and science.

Wolfgang Rosenstiel has also repeatedly assumed responsibility in the area of cultural affairs, for example as chairman of the Museum Society Tübingen e.V. At the Tübingen Museums Ball, he let himself be whirled through the air during a rock 'n' roll show. He also enjoyed going to the opera and for many years, he organized cultural events in Tübingen with great passion.

We will sorely miss Wolfgang Rosenstiel as dean, colleague, and friend and will remember him with gratitude.


Oliver Bringmann und Hendrik Lensch