University of Minnesota
Software Engineering Center

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Eric Van Wyk

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EE/CS 6-203

Ph.D. 1998, Computer Science, University of Iowa

M.S. 1991, Computer Science, University of Iowa

B.A. 1989, Mathematics and Computer Science, Luther College


Associate Professor Van Wyk's research focuses on programming languages, in particular extensible programming languages and compilers, applications of temporal logic, and algebraic compilers. In 2005 he was awarded a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship and the National Science Foundation's CAREER award in 2004.

He has authored or co-authored more than 25 publications, including journal and conference papers, articles and technical reports. Van Wyk has developed various software packages including the Silver attribute grammar specification and evaluation system, extensible specifications of Java 1.4 and ANSI C written in Silver, and various domain-specific language extensions for these Java and C specifications. He is a member of ACM, ACM SIGPLAN, IEEE, the IEEE Computer Society, and is involved in numerous conference committees. Van Wyk also does outreach, serving as a member of the St. Louis Park High School School Business and Information Technology Advisory Board.


In general, my research is on declarative specifications for programming language tools, such as compilers and optimizers, and the mechanisms for mapping these specifications into executable programs.

One area of interest is extendible programming languages and compiler designs that allow new language features to be imported into a language framework. These new features define their own syntax, semantics, and optimizations. In such a system, programmers do not choose which language to use for a particular task, but instead choose which set of language features to use and import these features into their programming environment thus creating a one-off language specific to their current problem domain.

Many program optimizations can be simply stated as rewrite rules but the data and control flow conditions which must be satisfied to safely apply the rules can be rather complex. I am interested in using temporal logic as a declarative specification language for these conditions since it is formal and concise. Also, temporal logic model checkers can automatically locate the points in a program flow graph where optimizations can be safely made.

I also work on algebraic compilers where programming languages are specified as Galois-connected syntax and semantic algebras and language translators are specified as (generalized) homomorphisms.

Recent Publications

Network generation and analysis of complex biomass conversion systems

A modular computational tool for automated generation and rule-based post-processing of reaction systems in biomass conversion is presented. Cheminformatics and graph theory algorithms are used to generate chemical transformations pertaining to heterogeneous and homogeneous chemistries in the automated rule-based network generator. A domain-specific language provides a user-friendly English-like chemistry specification interface to the network generator. A rule-based pathway analysis module enables the user to extract and query pathways from the reaction network.

Silver: an Extensible Attribute Grammar System

Attribute grammar specification languages, like many domain-specific languages, offer significant advantages to their users, such as high-level declarative constructs and domain-specific analyses. Despite these advantages, attribute grammars are often not adopted to the degree that their proponents envision. One practical obstacle to their adoption is a perceived lack of both domain-specific and general purpose language features needed to address the many different aspects of a problem.