Presented annually to the author of the outstanding doctoral dissertation in the area of Programming Languages. The award includes a prize of $1,000. The winner can choose to receive the award at ICFP, OOPSLA, POPL, or PLDI.
Nominations must be submitted to the secretary of SIGPLAN by January 4th 2015 to be considered for this year’s award. The nominated dissertation must be available in an English language version to facilitate evaluation by the selection committee and have been awarded in the year 2014.
A nomination should consist of the following items:
This award recognizes the contributions to computer science that John C. Reynolds made during his life. It is a renaming of the SIGPLAN Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award to encourage the clarity and rigor that Reynolds embodied and at the same time provide a reminder of Reynolds’s legacy and what a difference a person can make in the field of programming language research.
Reynolds is renowned for his many technical contributions.
Reynolds was an inspiration to all he worked with. He was well known for helping colleagues and students work through ideas. But his influence went well beyond his immediate circle; many researchers who never worked with Reynolds nevertheless built on his ideas.
Understanding and Expressing Scalable Concurrency
Advisor: Mitchell Wand
Aaron Turon’s dissertation makes several major contributions to the design, implementation, and verification of scalable concurrent programs. First, the dissertation presents “reagents”, a high-level language of combinators for designing—and composing—lock-free data structures. Second, the dissertation shows how lock-free data structures can be used to scalably implement Fournet and Gonthier’s join calculus, in a newly re-engineered C# library that significantly outperforms prior lock-based implementations. Third, the dissertation develops powerful theoretical foundations—based on logical relations and separation logic—for verifying the correctness of scalable concurrent algorithms via contextual refinement. The members of the award committee were impressed with both the breadth and depth of the work, as well as the elegance of the exposition.
Verifying Low-Level Programs via Liquid Type Inference
Advisor: Ranjit Jhala
Patrick Rondon’s dissertation makes several significant contributions to the field of automatic program verification. It takes a type system – a highly scalable yet not quite precise method of dealing with programs – and refines it using Satisfiability Modulo Theory (SMT) techniques to compensate for the precision loss. There are implementations for both OCaml and C. The achieved degree of effectiveness and automation is astonishing: programs that are beyond the existing verification tools can be handled fully automatically within seconds. It demonstrates that formal verification can yield significant reliability guarantees for mainstream software engineering, at a reasonable cost. In addition, the thesis contains a comprehensive formalization with very detailed, readable proofs. The members of the award committee were impressed by the quality of the work and the clarity of the presentation.
Simplified Semantics and Debugging of Concurrent Programs via Targeted Race Detection
Advisor: Todd Millstein
This dissertation addresses the problem of obtaining reliable results from concurrent programs. As a first step, the dissertation presents LiteRace, which uses sampling to dynamically detect race conditions. As a second step, the dissertation presents DRFx, which is a memory model that enforces sequential consistency, where hardware and software share responsibility for detecting violations of sequential consistency. Finally, the dissertation presents the design of an optimizing compiler that preserves sequential consistency. The dissertation thus demonstrates how a revised distribution of responsibilities among programmers, programming languages, and hardware can help detect and avoid concurrency violations. The committee was impressed with the dissertation’s broad vision for both the problems of concurrency and the possible solutions.
- John Boyland (U. Wisconsin Milwaukee)
- Chen Ding (U. Rochester)
- Matthew Flatt (U. Utah)
- David Gregg (Trinity U.)
- Norman Ramsey (Tufts U.)
- Jeremy Siek (U. Colorado)
- Adam Welc (Oracle)
An Effect System and Language for Deterministic-by-Default Parallel Programming
Advisor: Vikram Adve
This dissertation makes several significant contributions to the field of parallel and concurrent programming. The main technical contribution is a type and effect system that enables reasoning about non-interference at a fine granularity. A second contribution is support for non-deterministic code sections that are explicitly marked as such. A third contribution is support for object-oriented frameworks, where user extensions are guaranteed to adhere to the framework’s effect restrictions. These contributions are backed by formal models, soundness proofs, and the Deterministic Parallel Java implementation. Evaluation shows that highly satisfactory speedups can be achieved on interesting code bases, sometimes beating the performance of hand-crafted implementations. The members of the award committee were impressed by the quality of the work and the clarity of the presentation.
Selection commmittee: Ras Bodik, Matthew Dwyer, Matthew Flatt, Matthew Fluet, Kevin Hammond, Nathaniel Nystrom, Kostis Sagonas, Peter Sewell, Peter Thiemann
Interprocedural Analysis and the Verification of Concurrent Programs
Advisor: Thomas Reps
This dissertation develops improvements to interprocedural program analysis through context-bounded analysis and through Lal’s extended weighted push down systems, which generalize weighted push down systems to handle local variables. The dissertation describes both algorithms and experiments, and it shows, for example, a 30-fold speedup over existing algorithms for analyzing concurrent programs. The members of the award committee were impressed by the unusual scope and depth of the dissertation and its excellent presentation.
Language and Compiler Support for Stream Programs
Advisor: Saman Amarasinghe
This dissertation describes the StreamIt synchronous dataflow language, for which Thies led the definition. The language supports several novel constructs, notably teleport messaging. Thies’s dissertation includes a technique for processing compressed video data, and it also describes dynamic analysis techniques to convert legacy C applications to streaming applications. The members of the award committee were impressed with the novelty, interdisciplinary nature, and breadth of the work, the care given to evaluation, and the quality of the presentation.
Diagnosing and Tolerating Bugs in Deployed Systems
Advisor: Kathryn McKinley
This dissertation makes several significant contributions to the problems of tracking down and tolerating software errors in deployed systems. It proposes a variety of techniques, ranging from a breakthrough, probabilistic method of compactly representing calling contexts, to novel techniques for tracking null pointers, to garbage collector modifications that let programs tolerate memory leaks. The evaluation committee was impressed by Michael’s fresh perspective on these problems and the thorough experimental evaluation by which he backs up his claims. His research has already had broad adoption and impact, and we believe that his techniques will be brought to bear on a wide range of future applications.
Modular Fine-grained Concurrency Verification
Advisor: Alan Mycroft and Matthew Parkinson
This dissertation introduces a novel logic for reasoning about concurrent shared-memory programs. This logic subsumes both rely/guarantee reasoning and separation logic in an elegant and natural manner. The dissertation establishes the semantic properties of the logic and demonstrates its applicability on a range of highly complex concurrent algorithms and data structures. The evaluation committee found the clarity of Viktor’s presentation and the technical depth of his results particularly compelling, and we believe that this work creates a foundation for new tools and automated techniques for reasoning about concurrent programs.
Logics and Algorithms for Software Model Checking
Advisor: Rajeev Alur
The thesis explores a formalism called nested trees, that can represent complex branching behavior (loops and recursion) and support modular statement of context-sensitive correctness conditions. It further makes a specific technical contribution by offering the first algorithm for reachability in in nested trees that is sub-cubic in performance. The committee believes this work has great potential for long-term utility.
Fault Location via Dynamic Slicing
Advisor: Rajiv Gupta
Dynamic slicing is a technique for determining which variables and data structures affected values causing a fault (bug) at a particular location in a particular run of a program, thus allowing a programmer to work backwards to determine the ultimate cause of a fault. Previously this approach was too expensive to use in practice. Zhang has improved the performance by orders of magnitude, making it practical. The committee believes this work will have considerable impact and value in practice.
Program Analysis using Random Interpretation
Advisor: George Necula
Isolation, Resource Management and Sharing in the KaffeOS Java Runtime System
Advisor: Wilson Hsieh
Dynamic Software Updating
Advisor: Scott Nettles
Path-Sensitive Value-Flow Optimizations of Programs
Advisor: Rajiv Gupta and Mary Lou Soffa