Dutch research school IPA awarded former CWI and LIACS PhD student Sung-Shik Jongmans with the IPA Dissertation Award 2016 in June 2017. In March 2016 Jongmans received a rare cum laude degree for his thesis ‘Automata-Theoretic Protocol Programming’, describing a new method to simplify parallel programming. The jury wrote: “The thesis of Sung-Shik Jongmans contains theoretical contributions, novel ideas, and practical implementation results. The results have been impactful and are deemed to be of high quality and significance. Also the results have received significant attention from the researchers of the field, e.g., witnessed by the high number of citations”.
Due to the increase of multicore processors used in smart phones, game consoles and other computers, parallel programming has become increasingly important. To prevent software errors, concurrent calculations must always exactly be executed in the correct order. This is not easy, because existing programming techniques for enforcing such orders - interaction protocols - are hard to use. During his PhD research, Jongmans investigated a new programming method to simplify this. His results are interesting for researchers and software engineers.
Jongmans explained: “Sometimes parallel software has been running fine for many years but then suddenly crashes after five years due to a certain sequence of calculations. You do not want this to happen, for instance, in an airplane. The programming method that I contributed to aims to simplify programming and reusing interaction protocols for programmers. This improves the quality of parallel software.”
For his research Jongmans used formal methods, a mathematical-logical way to describe software to demonstrate the correctness of his method. The researcher developed a new programming language aimed at programming interaction protocols. Programmers can use this new programming language in addition to an existing one such as Java. In NASA benchmarks the researcher showed empirically that this approach can lead to software that is as fast as software developed with classical programming techniques, but without the current problems.
The work in this thesis was carried out in the Formal Methods research group at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) and at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) of Leiden University, under the auspices of the Research School IPA, the Institute for Programming Research and Algorithmics, an inter-university Dutch research school recognized by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). IPA’s principal goal is to educate researchers in the field of programming research and algorithmics.The research was under the supervision of Farhad Arbab (CWI and UL). Last year’s winner, Jurriaan Rot, was also a former PhD student at both CWI and Leiden University, from the same research group. Sung-Shik Jongmans now works as an assistant professor at the Open University, keeping his affiliation with CWI, and is currently spending a research sabbatical at Imperial College London in the UK via a Rubicon grant.