John C. Reynolds Doctoral Dissertation Award

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 5th 2014 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 2013.

A nomination should consist of the following items:

  • Name, address, phone number, and email address of the person making the nomination (the nominator).
  • Name, address, phone number, and email address of the candidate for whom an award is recommended (the nominee).
  • A short statement (200-500 words) explaining why the nominee deserves the award in question.
  • Supporting statements from up to two people in addition to the nominator.

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.

  • Gedanken, a core untyped language mixing functional and imperative features, which influenced Scheme;
  • Defunctionalization, which gives principled ways of constructing compilers;
  • Polymorphic λ-calculus, a fundamental calculus of polymorphic functions, which influenced Java and C# generics;
  • Syntactic control of interference, a resource-oriented type system, which prefigured linear logic;
  • λ-calculus with subtypes, which is a foundational component of object-oriented type systems;
  • Idealized Algol, a core typed language for mixing imperative and functional features, which prefigured monads in Haskell;
  • Possible-world semantics for local state, a widely-used technique in programming language theory;
  • Relational parametricity, a fundamental theory of data abstraction;
  • Separation logic, an extension of Hoare logic to mutable data structures, which forms the basis of a new generation of proof tools.

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.

Selection Committee


2012 Dan Marino, University of California Los Angeles

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.

Selection committee:

  • 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)

2010 Robert L. Bocchino, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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