Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Computer Science

Advisor 1

Ali Ebnenasir

Committee Member 1

Melissa Keranen

Committee Member 2

Jean Mayo

Committee Member 3

Charles Wallace


A protocol is said to be self-stabilizing when the distributed system executing it is guaranteed to recover from any fault that does not cause permanent damage. Designing such protocols is hard since they must recover from all possible states, therefore we investigate how feasible it is to synthesize them automatically. We show that synthesizing stabilization on a fixed topology is NP-complete in the number of system states. When a solution is found, we further show that verifying its correctness on a general topology (with any number of processes) is undecidable, even for very simple unidirectional rings. Despite these negative results, we develop an algorithm to synthesize a self-stabilizing protocol given its desired topology, legitimate states, and behavior. By analogy to shadow puppetry, where a puppeteer may design a complex puppet to cast a desired shadow, a protocol may need to be designed in a complex way that does not even resemble its specification. Our shadow/puppet synthesis algorithm addresses this concern and, using a complete backtracking search, has automatically designed 4 new self-stabilizing protocols with minimal process space requirements: 2-state maximal matching on bidirectional rings, 5-state token passing on unidirectional rings, 3-state token passing on bidirectional chains, and 4-state orientation on daisy chains.