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.”