Williams Professor Wins Award for New Research in Computer Science

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Stephen Freund, professor of computer science at Williams College, received the 2019 Most Influential Paper Award at this year's Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation, the premier forum for researchers, developers, practitioners, and students to present research on computer programming languages.

This award recognizes research that has pushed forward the state-of-the-art, opened new research directions, and had a significant practical impact on the computing field as a whole over the past decade.

Freund and his co-author Cormac Flanagan (University of California, Santa Cruz) published the work leading to this award in 2009 in a paper titled "FastTrack: Efficient and Precise Dynamic Race Detection." The research in that paper developed a new technique for finding data race conditions, a particularly harmful type of computer bug.

"Race conditions occur when two threads running at the same time on a multi-core processor or multi-processor system manipulate a shared memory location without proper synchronization," Freund said. "The negative impacts of race conditions can range from data corruption to catastrophic system failure, and developing effective ways to detect when a race condition bug occurs has been an active area of research for several decades."

Freund's paper addresses the limitations of prior techniques to find race conditions, which have typically been too time-consuming to use or report too many false positives. False positives are problematic because they require programmers to invest time tracking down errors that do not actually exist. 

"Our work on FastTrack changed that," Freund said. "We developed an algorithm that was efficient enough to use even on very large systems while still never under-reporting or over-reporting problems."

FastTrack was quickly and widely adopted within the computer science research community and industry, and the insights behind FastTrack have led to further advances on a number of other program-checking and verification problems.


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Mount Greylock Committee Member Pushes to Reopen Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Steven Miller participates in a recent meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee via Zoom.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The chair of the Mount Greylock School Committee's Education Subcommittee on Tuesday repeatedly pressed the district's interim superintendent to develop benchmarks that could be met in order to allow a return to full in-person instruction.
 
For now, school officials are planning to begin school in mid-September in a hybrid model that sees half the students in preK through ninth grade attending classes in person two days a week with the rest of their time on learning spent remotely; sophomores through seniors in high school would attend school one day a week under the current plan.
 
Several times during a more than two-hour virtual meeting, Steven Miller reiterated his contention that the Lanesborough-Williamstown district is uniquely situated to move to full, in-person instruction.
 
"We are in a wonderful situation where we are in a rural setting with people who are responsible, who are socially distancing and wearing masks," said Miller, who also referred to the county's low incidence of COVID-19 positive tests.
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