It is with the deepest regret that we announce the sudden death of our colleague Prof. Sherif Sakr (1979-2020)
Prof. Sakr received his BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science from the Faculty of Computers and Information at Cairo University in 2001 and 2003. He obtained his PhD degree in Computer and Information Science from Konstanz University in 2007.
Prof. Sakr was a leading researcher in the field of Big Data. He co-edited the Springer Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies (2019) - the largest compendium of scientific knowledge in this field. Prof. Sakr published more than 150 refereed research publications in international journals and conferences. He was also author of six books, including “Big Data 2.0 Processing Systems” (2016). His research received over 4000 citations according to Google Scholar.
Prof. Sakr joined University of Tartu’s Institute of Computer Science in 2018 funded by a “Top Researcher” grant from the Estonian Research Council. During his tenure, he created and led the Data Systems Research Group, along with his team of 16 researchers and students.
Prior to joining the University of Tartu, he held appointments at several leading academic institutions and private research organizations, including The University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, CSIRO, Microsoft Research, Nokia Bell Labs and the King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences. He also held several visiting appointments at Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Zurich and Technical University of Dresden.
During his career, Prof. Sakr was associate editor of the cluster computing journal and Transactions on Large-Scale Data and Knowledge-Centered Systems (TLDKS). He served as an editorial board member and guest editor for several reputable top-ranked scientific journals. He received the best research award from King Abdullah International Medical Research Center. In 2019, he received the best Arab scholar award from the Abdul Hammed Shoman Foundation. He held the title of Distinguished Speaker from the two largest associations of researchers in computer science: The Association for Computer Machinery and the IEEE Computer Society.
Jaak Vilo, head of the Institute of Computer Science described the quick establishment of the Data Systems group by Prof Sakr as one of the success stories of the University of Tartu. “In 2019 Prof. Sakr achieved the institute’s top spot in regards to international publications of peer-reviewed research, while only being for a relatively short time employed at Tartu. His contributions to the big data technologies through research and teaching activities were at the very core of the Institute’s mission.”
Marlon Dumas, Professor of Information Systems, remembers Sakr as a passionate and visionary scientist. His scientific legacy includes several state-of-the-art methods for storing, indexing, and retrieving graph data in distributed computer systems. His unfinished vision was to develop a highly scalable engine for processing events coming from a large number of systems in real time. “Sherif Sakr built a solid research group at University of Tartu, and instilled a research vision that will be carried forward by his team for many years to come”, said Prof. Dumas.
Riccardo Tommasini, Junior Research Fellow of Big Data, describes Sakr as a tireless researcher and someone who had time for everyone, devoting much time to ensuring that his students were aiming high and pushing them to maximise their potential. But most importantly, Tommasini says that Sherif was a good person. He cared that everyone felt comfortable and approached life with enthusiasm. He forged the data-system group upon his values: hard work, intellectual honesty, and mutual support. “I can’t capture in words how much we, his colleagues and students, will miss him,” said Tommasini.
We are all deeply saddened by the unexpected early departure of Prof. Sherif Sakr and are short of words for expressing our deep condolences towards his wife Radwa, son and daughter, the rest of the family and friends left behind. May you find peace in mind during these turbulent and extremely hard times.