CECS student wins SIGPLAN student research competition

Friday 28 June 2013

Final year PhB Computer Science Honours student James Bornholt has taken out the top prize in the undergraduate division of the Program Language Design and Implementation (PLDI) 2013 Student Research Competition.

The competition was held in Seattle from the 17th to 19th of June, as part of the PLDI 2013 conference, a highly-regarded annual conference in programming languages research.

The Student Research Competition provides an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students attending PLDI 2013 to present their research work in the area of programming language design and implementation. The goal is to give students a forum to discuss their research with experts in their field, and to help them sharpen their research and communication skills.

Students were required to progress through three rounds, first submitting an extended abstract, then a poster on their work and finally making an oral presentation to the PLDI attendees.

The competition was strong and the final few rounds saw James competing against students from UC Berkeley and Harvard. James took out the first prize, winning a medal and cash prize from SIGPLAN as well as an invitation to compete in the ACM Grand Final.

The work James presented was called ‘Uncertain< T >, A First-Order Type for Uncertain Data’, a project he worked on as part of his recent internship with Microsoft Research whilst under the supervision of Todd Mytkowicz and Kathryn McKinley.

When asked to explain his project, James describes uncertainty as “the bane of software developers” due to its nature of making computers unpredictable. James uses the example of a GPS on your smartphone “it only estimates your location, so sometimes it does ridiculous things like showing you driving through water.”

“Uncertain< T > lets developers wrangle this uncertainty, by reasoning about the error in data. This can make applications like GPS more accurate, and also has the potential to improve energy efficiency.”

The grand final will be run entirely online in early 2014. It’s a challenge James says he looks forward to.

“I will definitely be entering!”

To see James’ winning entry please click here .

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