Paolo Ferragina

Paolo Ferragina

Full Professor

Department of Computer Science
University of Pisa
Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.

email: ferragina(AT)
phone: +39 050 22127.64
skype: paolo.ferragina
twitter: FerraginaTeach

  • I'm leading the Advanced Algorithms and Application Lab (Acube), located at the Department of Computer Science, University of Pisa. We design and implement algorithms for compressing, indexing, searching and mining Big Data. We had/have collaborations on these themes with Senseable City Lab at MIT (Boston, USA), Google (Zurich), Bloomberg (London), ST Microelectronics, Tiscali (Istella's search engine), Bassilichi, ENEL Foundation, ENEL Ricerche (Pisa), CERVED Group, Spazio Dati, Yahoo! Research (Barcelona).
  • I'm currently serving my University under the following duties:
    • Vice-Rector on ICT (and innovations related to it) for my University (since September 2019).
    • President of the PhD in Computer Science which is a joint initiative of the Universities of Pisa, Florence and Siena. This is a regional PhD, named Pegaso, with about 15 students per year (over a total period of three years) and fellowships covered by Italian-MIUR, Tuscan Region, IIT-CNR and ISTI-CNR (since November 2017).
    • Member of the Scientific Committee of the "Fondazione Innovazione e Sviluppo Imprenditoriale" of the Camera Commercio di Pisa (since January 2017).
  • As far as my research achievements are concerned, my h-index is 30 on Scopus (and 4210 citations) and 39 on Google Scholar (with 8961 citations). [updated April 2019]. I point you out the CV below and the following four main lines:
    • Research on Compressed Data Structures: Yahoo! Research sponsored my promotion to full professor from 2007 to 2011, awarding my research on compressed data structures. Among these results, I mention the FM-index which surpassed the 1000 citations on Google Scholar and it has been mentioned also by the National Security Agency (NSA) as part of one of its screening tools (see page 35)!
    • Research on Learned Data Structures: This is a very recent project which is been supported by MIUR PRIN of which I'm the national coordinator. Our starting point is the ever growing need to efficiently store, retrieve and analyze massive datasets, under different requirements posed by users and applications. To successfully meet these challenges, we have proposed the so called Multicriteria Data Structures and Algorithms, whose first example is the PGM index which is a provably efficienty learned data structure which combines compression, machine-learning and optimization algorithms to address efficiently the challenges above.
    • Research on Data Compression: Since June 2016 Google is supporting also our research on Information Theory and Data Compression, which last since 15 years. The project is called "An algorithmic analysis of Brotli to personalized data compression", which recently got a Google Faculty Award (2016).
    • Research on Search Engines: I've got two Google research awards, in 2010 and 2012, on designing and applying a novel Semantic Annotation technology, known as TAGME (with its open source code), to several IR problems: Classification (ECIR 12), Clustering (WSDM 12), Social Network Analysis (ICWSM 15) and Query Disambiguation (WWW '16, ERD Challenge @ SIGIR '14). This algorithmic technology is nowadays the state-of-the-art in many entity-annotation tasks (WWW 13, WWW 15); it has been also awarded of the Working Capital Award by Telecom Italia (2010) and won the Short Track of the ERD Challenge at SIGIR 2014. For further information on the suite of entity-linking tools we developed in those years, please look at the Web API publicly available at the SoBigData Platform.
    • Research on Sports Analytics: We are developing algorithms and AI techniques for the evaluation of performance of soccer players or the planning of soccer matches based on Big Data provided to us by Wyscout. Our first result is PlayeRank, a data-driven framework that offers a principled multi-dimensional and role-aware evaluation of the performance of soccer players. PlayeRank has been designed and evaluated on a massive dataset of millions of events pertaining to four seasons of the five prominent European leagues, showing that it is the state-of-the art.
  • I'm proud to have served my University as vice-rector on "Applied Research and Innovation" from November 2010 to October 2016. In this period, among other achievements, we introduced the Phd Plus: a series of lectures on research valorization and entrepreneurship for Phd and Master students, and Faculties of the University of Pisa. The PhD Plus originated many start-ups that won several (inter-)national competitions and raised some millions worldwide. The PhD Plus got into the shortlisted projects of the QS Reimagine Education Award 2016 (Philadelphia, USA).
  • In April 2019, I got the honors of "Cherub" (Cherubino), from the University of Pisa.
Projects and Committees
Bio Sketch

I am Professor of Algorithms at the University of Pisa. I'm currently the Vice-Rector on ICT (and innovations related to it) of my University and the President of the PhD in Computer Science, hosted by University of Pisa, in collaboration with University of Florence and Siena. I'm also a Member of the Scientific Committee of the "Fondazione Innovazione e Sviluppo Imprenditoriale" of the Camera Commercio di Pisa. Finally, I funded and lead the Acube Lab, where we design algorithms for Big Data, with collaborations with companies worldwide: Google, Bloomberg, Tiscali, Yahoo!, ST Microelectronics, ENEL, Bassilichi, CERVED, Spazio Dati, etc. etc..

My promotion to full professor was sponsored by Yahoo! Research, from 2007 to 2011.

In April 2019, I got the honors of "Cherub" (Cherubino), from the University of Pisa.

From 2010 to 2016 I was Vice-Rector on "Applied Research and Innovation" at the University of Pisa, in the same period I was the President of the IT Center, which is a competence center about Cloud and HPC for Dell and Intel, Xeonphi Centre for Intel, and recently Transform Data Center immersion for Microsoft. Among the other institutional duties, I mention: vice-chairman of the Department of Computer Science; member of the Patent Committee of the University of Pisa, member of the CdA of Consorzio QUINN; member of the Scientific Committee of the Fondazione Toscana Life Sciences. I teached at the Scuola Normale Superiore (2009-11) and I was one of the scientific coordinators of its research center Signum, specialized on Digital Humanities (2004-07).

I got my Laurea degree (summa cum laude, 1992) and my PhD (1996) in Computer Science from the University of Pisa, and my Post-doc from the Max-Planck Institut fur Informatik (Saarbrucken, 1997-98). From 1998 to 2000, I've been Assistant Professor at the University of Pisa; and from 2000 to 2007, I've been Associate Professor at the same University. I also spent various periods of research at IBM Research (Rome), AT&T Shannon Lab (NJ), Yahoo! Research (Barcelona), Google (NY), University of North Texas, Max Planck Institut fuer Informatik (DE), and Courant Institute at New York University (USA).

My research is mainly devoted to the design, analysis and experimentation of algorithms and data structures for storing, compressing, mining and retrieving information from Big Data. My research results received three US Patents (owned by Lucent, University of Pisa and Rutgers, Yahoo!) and some international awards: "Best Land Transportation Paper Award" from IEEE Vehicular Technology Society (1995); "EATCS Doctoral Dissertation Thesis Award" (1997); "Philip Morris Award on Science and Technology" (1997); "Research Capital award" from the University of Pisa (2002); Yahoo! faculty award (2007-2010); Working Capital Award (2010); Google research award (2010, 2012 and 2016); Bloomberg Data Science research grant (2017). Currently, I have three more patents pending in the USA, two owned by Yahoo! and one by NYU. Our software system SMAPH won the ERD Challange @SIGIR2014 in the Short Track (query disambiguation).

I've been invited speaker of many international conferences and workshops on Algorithmics; in particular, I was a keynote speaker of CPM '04, SPIRE '05, ESA/ALGO 2010, SISAP '11, and Industral Track of ECIR 2012, DFG Priority Program 1307 "Algorithm Engineering" (Germany) and the DIITET 2015 National Conference of CNR (Pisa).

I'm serving in the Editor Board of the Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications (JGAA), and I was in the Steering Committee of the European Sympoium on Algorithms (ESA, 2012-2014) and I was one of the Area Editors of the Encyclopedia of Algorithms (Springer, Editor Ming-Yang Kao) for the topics "Data compression, String Algorithms and Data Structures". I served as (co)editor of special issues on the international journals: Theory of Computing Systems (June 2006), Theoretical Computer Science (November 2007), Information Retrieval (August 2008), Theoretical Computer Science (November 2009), Algorithmica (November 2014).

I have served as PC member of many International Conferences on Theoretical Computer Science, specifically in the field of Algorithmics. I've been co-chair of International Conference on FUN with Algorithms (2004), DIMACS Workshop on the Burrows-Wheeler Transform (2004), Symposium on String Processing and Information Retrieval (2006), Symposium on Combinatorial Pattern Matching (2008), European Symposium on Algorithms-- Algorithm Engineering Track (2012), ACM Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (2013)

I (co-)authored more than 150 publications in international refereed conferences and journals on Theoretical Computer Science and Algorithmics. I have also authored two Italian books: one on Cryptography (Bollati Boringhieri, 2001 and 2007; now UniPI Press, 2015), and one on Computational Thinking (Il Mulino, 2017), recently translated in English and published by Springer (2018). I also authored several chapters in books: just to mention a few, one chapter on "String search in external memory: Algorithms and data structures" in the Handbook of Computational Molecular Biology (CRC Press, Editor Srinivas Aluru, 2005), and one chapter on "Web Search" in the book On the power of algorithms (Springer, Editors Ausiello-Petreschi, 2013).

Here you can download an updated curriculum vitae, whereas for an updated list of publications look at the CS Bibliographic Database, or via Google Scholar.