Computer Science Professors Earn Amazon Research Awards

Professors Niranjan Balasubramanian and Michalis Polychronakis, from Stony Brook University’s Department of Computer Science, have each received Amazon Research Awards to further advance their fields of research.

Balasubramanian‘s research focuses on the potential of large language models (LLMs) for autonomous execution of complex tasks. He will use the Amazon funding to create a controlled environment, a complex task testbed, where LLMs can be rigorously evaluated. This testbed features innovative assessment criteria beyond typical accuracy metrics, a sandbox execution environment with mock APIs, and natural language descriptions of complex goals.

This research bridges the gap between theoretical promise and real-world implementation. By developing a controlled environment for LLMs, Balasubramanian aims to unlock their potential while ensuring safety. His work contributes to advancing AI technologies and addressing real-world challenges in a thoughtful and systematic manner.

Polychronakis’ Amazon funding will allow him to continue to explore ways to improve software security and enhance memory safety. His research aims to address the challenges posed by memory corruption vulnerabilities, which are still a major source of system compromise and malware infection. Despite the advantages of modern memory-safe languages like Go and Rust, most existing software is still written in memory-unsafe languages like C and C++. The familiarity of developers with C and C++, vast code bases in these languages, and their efficiency hinder efforts to migrate to memory-safe alternatives.

To address this issue, Polychronakis is developing SafeTrans, a system that automates the conversion of existing C/C++ code to Rust. Rust, with its memory safety features and low runtime overhead, is a great candidate to replace memory-unsafe languages in critical systems. SafeTrans seeks to accelerate the adoption of memory-safe languages by automating elements of the migration process while lowering the risk of memory-related vulnerabilities. His research advances the larger goal of increasing software security and making systems more resistant to modern vulnerabilities.

Both researchers received approximately $100K in funding, which includes Amazon credits.

The Amazon Research awards recognize the innovative contributions of Balasubramanian and Polychronakis, and their research assistants. Both initiatives demonstrate a commitment to innovation and real-world impact, shaping the future of technology.

— Sahil Sarna

This story originally appeared on the Computer Science website.

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