Monday, March 25, 2024

Dr. Garrett Morris, an assistant professor and inaugural Emeriti-faculty scholar in the Department of Computer Science, received a Distinguished Paper award while attending the 51st AMC SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL 2024). His research, titled “Soundly Handling Linearity”, proposes a novel approach to soundly combining linear types with multi-shot effect handlers.  

J. Garrett Morris

“We studied the challenges that arise in ensuring that handlers respect linear types [...] “When we’re putting programs and their handlers together, it’s not enough to just know about the effect being handled; we also need to know about the requirements of the remaining effects. Our work gives a general pattern that captures many of these interactions and rules out misbehavior in those cases we haven’t captured yet.”  - Dr. Morris 

“Soundly Handling Linearity” is one of the results of years of research between Dr. Morris and Dr. Sam Lindley, a reader in Programming Language Design and Implementation at the University of Edinburgh. The pair first began to collaborate on linear types during their time as post-doctoral researchers in the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science at Edinburg, and has since expanded to include Dr. Morris’ background in extensibility and Dr. Lindley’s studies in effect handlers. The paper was also co-authored by Wenhao Tang, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh supervised by Dr. Lindley, and Dr. Daniel Hillerström, an honorary fellow at Edinburgh and a senior researcher at the Huawei Zurich Research Center in Switzerland. 

The 51st AMC SIGPLAN Symposium marked Dr. Morris’ fifth POPL. He said the annual conference brings together researchers and students from across programming language theory, logic, and other areas of theoretical computer science, which allows participants to explore a range of topics. For future POPL attendees, Dr. Morris recommends looking through the daily schedule and prioritizing a few of the events to ensure a balanced experience.   

“For me, the most important thing is to identify a subset of the program that I’ll really be able to understand and engage with, while leaving enough slack for impromptu discussions and seeding future collaboration,” Dr. Morris said. 

In fact, Dr. Morris said one exchange from the conference may have inspired his next project.  

“The most promising thing from this year’s POPL for me was probably an off-hand comment in a lunch time conversation – ‘Why has no one done X yet?’,” he said. “Upon thinking about it, I figured that maybe I could do X and it’s looking good so far.”  

Among the 94 papers accepted to the conference, only 9 – including “Soundly Handling Linearly – obtained a distinguished paper designation. The conference defines its distinction criteria as “papers that the Program Committee thinks should be read by a broad audience due to their relevance, originality, significance, and clarity.