University of Minnesota
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Eric Van Wyk Wins NSF CAREER Award

June 7, 2004

Dr. Eric Van Wyk has received a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his project "An Extensible Compiler Framework for Modular Seamless Language Extensions." Dr. Van Wyk is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards for new faculty members. Through the CAREER awards, this Foundation-wide program recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative, career-development plans that effectively integrate the research and educational goals of the awardees.

Dr. Van Wyk's work funded by this CAREER award is in the general area of programming languages and aims to provide programming languages and language tools that make programmers more effective in the development of robust software systems. This project is motivated by the fact that software development is an expensive and error-prone process. This is at least partly because of the large semantic gap between the programmer's high-level understanding of the problem and the relatively low-level language in which the problem solutions are encoded. No language contains all of the general purpose and domain specific constructs that may be needed for the unique problems faced by programmers. Thus, they cannot "say what they mean" but must encode their ideas as programming idioms at a lower level of abstraction. Simply stated, this wastes time and money and is the source of many errors.

Dr. Van Wyk's project is directly addressing this problem by developing a framework for extensible programming languages that enables programmers to use languages whose level of abstraction has been raised closer to their problem domain by importing new language features into their programming language. These features include domain specific language constructs, semantic analyses to ensure the correct usage of new language constructs and optimizations and code transformations to ensure that efficient target code is generated. Furthermore, these language extensions are modular and thus>can be easily imported by programmer into his or her programming environment and analyzed to ensure that they will not interfere with one another.

More information on the project can be found on Dr. Van Wyk's research group's web page.