The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
World expert in concurrent programming collaborates with Kent
Professor Eliot Moss, from the University of Massachusetts, is a world expert on garbage collection and one of the inventors of software transactional memory, an important technique for concurrent programming. He visited the School of Computing to work with Richard Jones. The aims of the visit were to identify further areas for collaborative research, to complete a new book and to advise in the development of a new Masters course covering advanced programming for multi-core systems.
Eliot has been a member of the Computer Science faculty at the University of Massachusetts since 1985, and was named an ACM Fellow by the Association of Computing Machinery in 2007. He has served on the executive committee of SIGPLAN, the ACM Special Interest Group for programming languages. His first collaboration with Richard Jones in 2001 led to the ground breaking Beltway paper, generalising all known copying garbage collection algorithms; Beltway has recently been adopted by Sun Microsystems new Java system, Maxine. Eliot first visited Kent in 2004 when he was invited to speak at the EPSRC MM-NET Summer School organised by Richard. This latest visit was courtesy of the Royal Academy of Engineering Distinguished Visiting Fellowship scheme.
Staff and students from the Faculty of Sciences at Kent learnt about Eliot's latest research through a series of seminars given by Prof Moss. He also had discussions with the School of Computing's Concurrency Group, part of the Programming Languages and Systems Research Group, which is internationally renowned for its approach to concurrency and process oriented programming.
Richard, Eliot and their colleague Tony Hosking, of Purdue University (who visited Kent for six months last year), have been working on a new book on garbage collection. Garbage collection automatically recycles the memory used by modern programming languages and is a vital technology supporting applications from e-commerce to games on mobile phones. The new book will bring the field up to date, and focuses especially on the challenge of implementing high performance garbage collectors on modern parallel hardware. The book, to be published by Taylor and Francis in 2010, is expected to supplant Jones's 1996 book as the definitive reference for students, researchers and developers working in this area (which has been cited by nearly 1000 other publications).
Multi-core systems, including the latest multi-core CPUs and programmable graphics processors (GPGPUs), have taken over from the single-core processor and are now commonplace. However, very few existing software applications make good use of these technologies particularly because there is a shortfall of programmers who can fully exploit these systems. The University of Kent has responded to this shortage by developing a new Masters course, the MSc in Advanced Programming for Multi-core Systems. Prof. Moss was able to provide expert advice on the design of this new MSc programme which will focus on concurrent/parallel design and programming techniques as well as the latest parallel hardware architectures and software platforms. It is believed that this new course will be the first in the world to focus on this vital technology.
Richard Jones has a reputation as one of the leaders in the field of garbage collection. His work was recognised when he was named as a Distinguished Scientist (the first in Europe) by the ACM in 2006, and by the University of Glasgow who awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 2005 for "his international distinction through his research and scholarship in dynamic memory management and garbage collection, ... and the esteem in which he is held throughout the computing world". Richard co-founded the International Symposium in Memory Management, the leading conference series in this field, in 1996. He sits on the Editorial Board of the journal Software Practice and Experience (Wiley) and regularly serves on the committees of major conferences. His work has been supported by IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Richard Jones said:
" We are very grateful to the Royal Academy for supporting this visit. The opportunity to work face to face with Eliot has been invaluable. I am sure that Prof Moss's advice will help make our new Masters programme become a 'must take' course as concurrency skill becomes a more and more essential component in a programmer's toolkit. "
Professor Moss visited the School of Computing from 2-20 November 2009.
Published 24 November 2009