Acm Doctoral Dissertation Award

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While all aspects of the work could easily have been submitted to programming languages or formal methods venues, submitting his work to networking conferences has certainly maximized his impact in his domain of study.

Most notably, his work on the Propane language won the best paper award at SIGCOMM in 2016.

Taken together, these results constitute a significant advance in our ability to mechanize key properties of important randomized algorithms such as those found in the differential privacy literature.

This thesis proposes abstractions and formal tools to develop correct LLVM peephole optimizations.

With his thesis, Ryan Beckett has demonstrated his capability to conduct truly interdisciplinary research of the highest scientific quality: The results were possible only with a deep knowledge across the programming languages, formal methods and networking domains.

Moreover, the thesis is an excellent witness of the profound impact that programming language and formal reasoning methods can have on other research areas.

A domain specific language (DSL) Alive enables the specification and verification of peephole optimizations.

An Alive transformation is shown to be correct automatically by encoding the transformation and correctness criteria as constraints in first-order logic, which are automatically checked for validity using an SMT solver. Peephole optimizations in LLVM are executed numerous times until no optimization is applicable and one optimization could undo the effect of the other resulting in non-terminating compilation.

It also makes striking use of self-application for both the compiler and the theorem prover. But more than that: it is formally proved correct, and the core of the theorem prover used to prove its correctness is also compiled using Cake ML and formally verified using itself.

Not only is this a compelling demonstration of the possibilities for formally correct software, and the promise of the Cake ML system as an enabling technology for it, but gives perhaps the first really convincing correctness proof for the core of a higher-order logic interactive theorem prover.


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