University of Minnesota
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Eric Van Wyk

Photo of Eric Van Wyk
Phone Number: 
612-625-0329
Office Location: 
EE/CS 6-203
Education: 

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

Biography: 

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.

Research: 

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

Verifiable Composition of Deterministic Grammars

There is an increasing interest in domain-specific and extensible languages, and frameworks for developing extensions to them. One challenge is to develop tools that allow non-expert programmers to add an eclectic set of language extensions to a host language. In this paper we describe mechanisms for composing and analyzing syntactic specifications of a host language and extensions.

Adding Dimension Analysis to Java as a Composable Language Extension

In this paper we describe a language extension that adds dimension analysis to Java. Dimension analysis can be used to check that values that represent physical measurements such as length and mass are not used inconsistently. What distinguishes this work from previous work that adds dimension analysis to programming languages is that here the extension is implemented as a composable language extension.

Context-Aware Scanning for Parsing Extensible Languages

This paper introduces new parsing and context-aware scanning algorithms in which the scanner uses contextual information to disambiguate lexical syntax. The parser utilizes a slightly modified LR-style algorithm that passes to the scanner the set of valid symbols which the scanner may return at that point in parsing. This set is the terminal symbols that are valid for the current state, i.e., those whose entry in the parse table are shift, reduce, or accept, but not error. The scanner then only returns tokens in this set.

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