ACM SIGPLAN Robin Milner Young Researcher Award, 2014


Sumit Gulwani has made pioneering contributions to the field of programming languages, especially in the areas of program analysis and program synthesis. Building on his foundational work in program analysis including using randomized algorithms, improving abstract interpretation, and reasoning about programs as continuous functions, Dr. Gulwani recognized the important connection between program verification and program synthesis. His research has demonstrated that imprecise human intent, in the form of examples, natural language, and other kinds of input, can be transformed into incomplete program specifications, which together with ranking techniques can then be used to synthesize intended programs, empowering users to accomplish complex and repetitive programming tasks without needing any knowledge of programming. His contributions include algorithms for synthesizing string transformation programs by examples, published in POPL 2011, and the technical basis for "Flash Fill", a new feature shipping in Microsoft's Excel 2013. He has since then extended this line of algorithmic work to synthesizing programs in several other important domains and also broadly advertised this line of work by publishing in top-tier ACM conferences in various other areas including AI, machine learning, HCI, databases, and knowledge discovery. He has also championed the application of program synthesis techniques to developing intelligent tutoring systems for numerous subject domains including introductory programming, mathematics, logic, and automata theory. The visionary aspects of his work were recently recognized by the CACM Editorial Board when two of his recent papers appeared as CACM Research Highlights in the same issue, and a summary of his work on computer-aided Education was accepted to appear as a CACM article.

In summary, Dr. Gulwani is a highly motivated, creative, and inter-disciplinary researcher whose vision is to empower computer users around the world to be more productive and educated. His insights in using program synthesis to address problems in end-user programming and education will have deep and lasting influence.