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Computer science student wins research award

Courtesy photo.

Northeastern computer science senior Tyler Denniston is among just 60 students nationwide recognized with a 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award from the Computing Research Association (CRA). The recipient of an honorable mention, Denniston became the fifth College of Computer and Information Science undergraduate the CRA has commended for exemplary research.

Denniston has worked on professor Gene Cooperman’s research group for the past three years and honed his research skills through a co-op with VMware, the global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure. He has also coauthored a peer-reviewed paper included in the PLOS 2011 Workshop on Programming Languages and Operating Systems, a prestigious computing conference.

Denniston’s research has focused on “checkpointing,” or saving the state of a computer program. He has contributed to Cooperman’s large Distributed MultiThreaded CheckPointing (DMTCP) research project and to the development of a universal reversible, or “time-traveling,” debugger known as FReD (Fast Reversible Debugger) that uses a novel form of checkpoint restart.

By the time he was a junior, Denniston had developed the first version of a determinism module integrated into the team’s research software. He also acquired what Cooperman has described as “the same research skills as a first- or second-year PhD student.”

The research team recently completed the FReD project, and its open-source software is ready for release to the public. Denniston, who wrote the entire user interface for the software, said, “As an undergraduate, I’ve been able to make very significant contributions to this research. The determinism model turned out to be a very critical piece of the software.”

Denniston said the CRA’s recognition is great for Northeastern by highlighting how its students are working on use-inspired research, and he hopes the award will help him in his pursuit of higher degrees in the future.

Although this is the first time Denniston has gained national attention for his research, his potential was apparent several years ago. As a freshman, he was awarded the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship, which enabled him to work with Cooperman as a sophomore.

“After that, I continued on my own initiative,” Denniston says. “The scholarship started all of this for me.”

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