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Dr. David Walker – The Spring 2015 Distinguished Lecture Series

On April 3rd, the Computer Science Department’s Distinguished Lecture series featured Dr. David Walker, a professor of Computer Science at Princeton University. Dr. Walker received his B.Sc. from Queen’s University, Canada, in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2001.  Dr. Walker’s research interests include programming language theory, design and implementation of all kinds. He is especially interested in type systems and the development of new domain-specific programming languages.

Dr. Walker’s talk was titled the “The Frenetic Project: Declarative Languages for Programming Networks.” In his talk, Dr. Walker remarked how Software-Defined Networking (SDN) has taken both the academic and industrial networking communities by storm over the last few years. In an SDN, each switch exports a simple, standard and relatively direct interface to its underlying hardware. These switches are organized and managed by a separate, logically-centralized controller machine or cluster of machines.  Such controllers run general-purpose computations that react to network events such as failures or changes in traffic volume, and decide how to route or reroute packets across the network. Based on these decisions, a controller will send commands to configure the underlying switches.

Dr. Walker went on to elaborate on the Frenetic Project which is a joint project with networking and programming languages researchers from Cornell, Princeton and UMass Amherst. In particular, he explained some of the problems with early SDN interfaces, such as a lack of modularity, and how this would lead to the design of a new language called NetKAT for specifying network configurations.  Dr. Walker also pointed out that once one has a new configuration for a network; one has to find a way to migrate the current network configuration to the new one in a way that does not disrupt key connectivity or security invariants.

After Dr. Walker arrived at Princeton in February 2002, he won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Career award in 2003 and an Alfred Sloan Fellowship in 2004.  In 2007, with his students and colleagues at Princeton, he won the Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI) best paper award for the paper entitled “Fault-Tolerant Typed Assembly Language.”  (View Here). In 2008, his paper “From System F to Typed Assembly Language,” co-authored with Greg Morrisett, Karl Crary and Neal Glew, won a 10-year retrospective award for the highest impact Principles of Programming Languages (POPL) 1998 paper. (View Here). In 2013, with his students and colleagues at Princeton and Cornell, he won the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) community award for his paper on “Composing Software-Defined Networks.”

He is currently serving as an associate editor for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems and for Foundations and Trends in Programming Languages.  He also served as the Program Chair for the 42nd ACM Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages, POPL 2015.


To view Dr. David Walker’s website please Click Here.


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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