Department of Computer Science and Technology

Department of Computer Science and Technology - Awards and honours

  • Andrew Pitts is joint winner of the 2019 Alonzo Church Award

    Andrew Pitts and Jamie Gabbay (Heriot-Watt) have been selected for the 2019 Alonzo Church Award for their work on nominal techniques, begun when Jamie was a PhD student with Andrew in the Computer Laboratory in the late 1990s.


    The Alonzo Church Award is for outstanding contributions to Logic and Computation. It was established in 2015 by the ACM Special Interest Group for Logic and Computation (SIGLOG), the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS), the European Association for Computer Science Logic (EACSL), and the Kurt Goedel Society (KGS).

    Andrew and Jamie are honoured for the the invention of nominal techniques, providing a highly influential mathematical model for key concepts that arise when computing with data involving atomic names. The award cites two of their papers:

    • "A new approach to abstract syntax with variable binding" by Murdoch J. Gabbay and Andrew M. Pitts, Formal Aspects of Computing 13(3):341-363, 2002
    • "Nominal logic, a first order theory of names and binding" by Andrew M. Pitts, Information and Computation 186(2):165-193, 2003.

    The award will be presented at the 46th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming (ICALP 2019) in Patras, Greece, in July.

  • Marcelo Fiore and Andrew Pitts win 2019 LICS Test-of-Time awards

    The ACM/IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science (LICS) annual Test-of-Time Award recognises a small number of papers from the LICS proceedings from 20 years prior.


    Two awards have been made in 2019 to honour outstanding papers from the IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science 1999 held in Trento, Italy.

    • A New Approach to Abstract Syntax Involving Binders by Murdoch Gabbay and Andrew M. Pitts
    • Abstract Syntax and Variable Binding by Marcelo P. Fiore, Gordon D. Plotkin, and Daniele Turi

    Variable binding operators are pervasive in the study of programming languages and logics. Following an idea of Church (1940), these can be reduced to a single binding operator whose syntactic properties have been understood for some time. These two seminal papers propose contrasting approaches to achieve a matching semantic understanding for abstract syntax with binding.

    Gabbay and Pitts employ the permutation model of set theory with atoms due to Fraenkel and Mostowski to represent name abstraction and fresh name generation. This led to a wealth of research using so-called nominal techniques, both in theory and in practical implementations in theorem provers. An extended and revised version of their paper was published in Formal Aspects of Computing in 2002.

    Fiore, Plotkin, and Turi instead take a categorical approach, devising binding algebras that are presheaves endowed with both an algebra structure and a substitution structure that are compatible with each other. Abstract syntax with binding is then an initial model. The compatibility of this idea with de Bruijn indices, already popular in formal developments before 1999, has led to many applications of their results in further theory and implementations.

    The awards will be presented at the 2019 LICS Symposium in Vancouver, in June.

  • CheriABI wins best paper award at ASPLOS conference

    The CHERI Instruction-Set Architecture (ISA) is a novel computer processor architecture intended to support more secure computer system designs. It has been developed by a multi-disciplinary team spanning the University of Cambridge and SRI International over the last decade.

    The team are presenting their paper “CheriABI: Enforcing Valid Pointer Provenance and Minimizing Pointer Privilege in the POSIX C Run-time Environment” at the ASPLOS conference currently taking place in Providence, Rhode Island.

    This paper on CheriABI has won a best paper award. ASPLOS is the ACM Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems.

    The paper demonstrates that CHERI can be used to provide fine-grained memory safety across a broad range of software applications, through recompilation including the complete FreeBSD UNIX operating system user space with low performance overhead and minimal source-code change.

    The team’s design disrupts a broad range of known (and potential future) C/C++ language memory-protection vulnerabilities. This category of vulnerability is estimated by Microsoft to account for over 70% of Microsoft product vulnerabilities.

    The team is led by Dr Robert Watson (Cambridge), Dr Peter Neumann (SRI), Professor Simon Moore (Cambridge), and Professor Peter Sewell (Cambridge), and the lead for this paper was Mr Brooks Davis (SRI), who is an industrial fellow at the Computer Laboratory.

    To learn more about CHERI, please visit

  • Cambridge Ring Awards

    Every year the Cambridge Ring celebrates the successes of companies founded by graduates of the Department of Computer Science and Technology.

    The winners of the 2019 Hall of Fame Awards are:

    Company of the Year:


    PolyAI aims to revolutionise call centres with its state-of-the-art conversational AI. The founders of this London start-up met at the Computer Lab while working on their PhDs. Unlike other customer service chatbots, PolyAI’s AI technology is able to follow a conversation and interpret meaning according to context, producing more authentic and effective interactions.

    Product of the Year:

    Pur3 Ltd for Pixl.js

    Pur3 Ltd was founded by Gordon Williams, and develops hardware and software. Their Pixl.js has won “Product of the Year”.

    Pixl.js is a smart, wireless display, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy. With the Espruino JavaScript interpreter it only needs tiny amounts of power to run.

    Better Future Award:

    Gemma Gordon for her work on bridging virtual reality with climate change education

    Gemma Gordon works on the LABScI Imagine project, which aims to create virtual learning environments based on US national parks. This gives children who cannot access nature, such as hospitalised paediatric patients and students of limited means, the opportunity to interact with it through cutting-edge technology delivered via readily-available Google Cardboard VR headsets.

    Lessons cover topics with a STEM focus, including: plate tectonics; erosion; desert adaptations; local flora and fauna; human geography and anthropological history. The Imagine project seeks to provide environmental and climate change education, and enable students who cannot go on field trips to understand their connection to the natural world.

    Publication of the Year:

    Noa Zilberman, Gabi Bracha and Golan Schzukin for "Stardust: Divide and conquer in the data center network"

    The paper presents Stardust, a scalable fabric architecture for data centre networks. It separates the simple network-fabric from the complex network-edge. Stardust applies system-switch architecture on a data centre scale, while attending to the scalability limitations of network devices: resources, I/O and performance. The resulting network fabric devices are a radical change from commodity Ethernet switches, eliminating significant overheads in DCNs. The approach is practical, power-efficient, cost-effective, scalable, and, critically, deployable.

  • NetFPGA project wins SOSR System Award

    San Jose, California, USA, April 3rd, 2019. The NetFPGA project was awarded today the ACM SIGCOMM SOSR System Award. The award recognises the development of a software system that has had a significant impact on SDN research, implementations, and tools.

    The NetFPGA is an open platform enabling researchers and students to build high-speed, hardware-accelerated networking systems. The platform is used by researchers to prototype advanced services for next-generation networks. It is also used in the classroom to teach students how to build network devices, such as Ethernet switches and Internet Protocol (IP) routers. The platform combines both hardware (boards) and software (embedded, tools and applications), together with reference designs and community contributed projects.

    Originally developed for teaching at Stanford in 2002 and becoming widely available in 2003, NetFPGA has developed a large community of over 1200 users, using more than 3500 cards, at over 300 universities, in over 60 countries across 6 continents. Alongside supporting academic teaching and research, NetFPGA sees use and contributions from professional research community with over 50 active corporate-based contributors.

    The prominent early success of  NetFPGA has been its contribution to OpenFlow, which in turn reignited the Software Defined Networking movement. By providing a widely available open-source OpenFlow development platform capable of line-rate operation, NetFPGA was, until commercial uptake, the reference hardware platform for OpenFlow.

    In recent years, NetFPGA was increasingly used for the prototyping of programmable data planes, and it currently offers the only open-source hardware target for P4 programs (previously through P4FPGA, and nowadays using the P4->NetFPGA framework).

    NetFPGA has been used for the implementation of over 500 research projects, and to date has been referenced in over three thousand publications.

    The NetFPGA project is academically led by the Universities of Cambridge and Stanford, supported by generous donations from Xilinx, Micron, Cypress and Linear Technologies and generous support from  the National Science Foundation, DARPA, the Research Council UK through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council, and the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

    "The CTO Office at Xilinx has been involved in the open source NetFPGA project since its inception. In particular, the Xilinx University Program has ensured that the NetFPGA family – featuring multiple generations of Xilinx FPGAs over the years – has been successfully used by academic researchers and teachers. Xilinx Labs has also had direct technical involvements, ranging from NetFPGA board and shell design on the hardware side, to P4→NetFPGA tool flow development on the software side. Xilinx is very happy to see this well-deserved award, which reflects the great impact of NetFPGA worldwide on research and teaching using FPGA-based software-defined networking." - Gordon Brebner, Distinguished Engineer, Xilinx Labs

    "Cypress is pleased to continue its support for the NetFPGA project and its valuable training and research work in areas including Cyber Security at the Edge and in the Cloud," said Patrick Kane, director of the Cypress University Alliance, Cypress. "Our relationship with the NetFPGA has spanned over 12 years and has included providing world-class Cypress semiconductor solutions for all versions of the NetFPGA platform."

  • Professor Cecilia Mascolo wins ERC Advanced Grant
    ERC Grant winner

    Professor Cecilia Mascolo, Professor of Mobile Systems and Co-Director of the Centre for Mobile, Wearable Systems and Augmented Intelligence, has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council.

    The ERC has awarded €540 million in total to fund researchers working on pioneering projects that aim to solve the world's most pressing challenges. Mascolo is one of 5 Cambridge researchers to win a grant, and one of 47 in the UK, which received the highest number of grants of any participating country.

    Professor Mascolo's research focuses on the use of mobile devices for medical diagnostics. Mascolo and her team will study how the microphone in mobile and wearable devices may be used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions, since sounds from the human body can be indicators of disease or the onset of disease.

    While audio sensing in a mobile context is inexpensive to deploy and can reach people who may not have access to or be able to afford other diagnostic tests, it does come with challenges which threaten its use in clinical contexts: namely its power-hungry nature and the sensitivity of the data it collects. Mascolo’s ERC funding will support the development of a systematic framework to link sounds to disease diagnosis while addressing power consumption and privacy concerns by maximising the use of local hardware resources with power optimisation and accuracy.

    This story is adapted from an article on the University of Cambridge website by Sarah Collins.

  • Success for Cambridge in the Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge
    Student group at Cyber 9/12

    Gary Dreyer, Ainsley Katz, Jamie MacColl and Tomass Pildegovics won first place in a national cyber competition, the Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. The four Cambridge MPhil students in International Relations and Politics were sponsored by Cambridge's Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research. Professor Frank Stajano, head of the ACE-CSR, was delighted to cover their expenses and, more importantly, to put them in touch with a tech-savvy mentor, ACE-CSR member Dr Jat Singh, who has a multi-disciplinary background in both computer science and law.

    The Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is a competition designed to identify and foster the next generation of policy and strategy leaders for the cyber security challenges of the future. These competitions take place internationally (Austin, Lille, London, Washington, Geneva, and Sydney), but our students attended the event in London.

    In the competition, teams take on the role of senior advisors to government Ministers in responding to an evolving cyber attack. Over two days, the scenario evolves through three rounds with a grand finale in front of senior UK cyber security experts. The competition is multidisciplinary in nature, allowing those with a non-technical background to test the waters of both cyber security and policymaking. The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge underscores the importance of blended learning and cross-sectoral coordination that are critical to cyber security. This, in turn, emphasizes the value of a diverse and innovative cyber-security workforce.

    This kind of policy-oriented cyber competition is a valuable complement to the more technology-oriented hacking challenges that the Cambridge ACE-CSR founded and ran in previous years, the national-level Inter-ACE and the international Cambridge 2 Cambridge. Team CamPhishing placed first out of seventeen teams from various UK universities. Its members are now considering cyber as a potential future career.

  • Alastair Beresford receives Google Security and Privacy Research award

    Dr Alastair Beresford, Reader in Computer Security, has received a 2018 Google Security and Privacy Research award.

    Dr Beresford's research examines the security and privacy of large-scale networked computer systems.

  • Cambridge team wins the 2018 Northwestern Europe Regional Contest

    Congratulations to Team Treenity, winners of The 2018 Northwestern Europe Regional Contest.

    NWERC 2018 is an official regional contest in the International Collegiate Programming Contest. It draws students from colleges and universities throughout Belgium, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

    Team Treenity will now advance to the ICPC World Finals which take place in Porto in 2019.

  • Dr Amanda Prorok receives Best Paper Award at DARS 2018

    Dr Amanda Prorok has received the Best Paper Award, at DARS 2018: 14th International Symposium on Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems, for 'Redundant Robot Assignment on Graphs with Uncertain Edge Costs'.

    Dr Prorok is a member of the Digital Technology Group.

More award news ...

Older award news (before 2007)

Awards for Professor Karen Spärck Jones

  • 2007 BCS Lovelace Medal
  • 2007 ACM Athena Lecturer
  • 2006 ACM – AAAI Allen Newell Award

Andy Hopper has been made a CBE

Prof. Andy Hopper as been made a Commander of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year Honours list for services to the computer industry.

Andy Hopper elected FRS

Prof. Andy Hopper was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006.

2005 IBM ThinkPad Challenge

Each year the winning Part IB Group Project Team is invited to participate in the IBM ThinkPad Challenge at Hursley. In 2005, Cambridge has become the first university, among the 18 that compete, to win the Thinkpad Challenge twice.

Andy Hopper receives IEE Mountbatten Medal

Prof Andy Hopper was the recipient of the IEE Mountbatten Medal 2004, for his work in the computer industry and in helping the development of UK computer companies.

Keir Fraser wins BCS/CPHC Distinguished Dissertation Award

Dr Keir Fraser was awarded one of the two 2004 British Computer Society/Council of Professors and Heads of Computing Distinguished Dissertation Awards for his PhD dissertation "Practical Lock-Freedom", supervised by Dr Ian Pratt. A second Computer Lab dissertation, "Reconfigurable wavelengths-switched optical networks for the internet core" by Dr Tim Granger, was one of the seven shortlisted for the award. Tim was supervised by Prof. Ian Leslie.

Andy Hopper receives ACM SIGMOBILE Outstanding Contribution Award

Prof Andy Hopper was given the SIGMOBILE Outstanding Contribution Award in Philadelphia on 28 September 2004 for pioneering new areas of research in wireless and mobile computing, driven by a unique blend of innovative academic research and recognition of its commercial potential.

Robin Milner receives Royal Society of Edinburgh Royal Gold Medal

Professor Robin Milner was awarded a Royal Gold Medal for outstanding achievement at a ceremony held in The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) on 2 September 2004. The medal was awarded for his "outstanding contributions to software engineering which have changed the face of modern computer science."

Karen Spärck Jones receives ACL Lifetime Achievement Award

Prof Karen Spärck Jones was given the Association for Computational Linguistics' Lifetime Achievement Award at the 42nd annual meeting of the ACL in Barcelona on 23 July 2004. These awards began in 2002; Prof Spärck Jones is only the third recipient.

Andy Hopper receives Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal

On 5 July 2003 Prof Andy Hopper was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in recognition of an oustanding and demonstrated contribution to British engineering leading to market exploitation.

Martin Richards receives IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award

Martin Richards has been awarded one of the IEEE Computer Society's 2003 Computer Pioneer Awards for pioneering system software portability through the programming language BCPL, widely influential and used in academia and industry for a variety of prominent system software applications.

BCPL is a simple typeless language that was designed in 1966. It was the precursor to Ken Thomson's B, and the two gave rise to C.

David Wheeler made Fellow of the Computer History Museum

In October 2003, Prof David Wheeler was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum for his invention of the closed subroutine, his architectural contributions to the ILLIAC, the Cambridge Ring, and computer testing.

2003 SET Awards

James Murphy (Jesus College) received the IEE Award for Best Information Technology Student at the national Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year Awards in September 2003. This is the third year, running, that a Cambridge student has received the SET award for best IT or CS student.

James' Part II project, the subject of his nomination, was on modelling smoke for computer graphics. This involved solving the equations governing fluid motion (Euler, Navier-Stokes, mass conservation equations) in a stable way to simulate the motion of the smoke, in order to create physically plausible smoke. The solution method was based on a finite grid (Eulerian) discretization and solving the system of sparse linear equations thus produced required the implementation of several numerical methods. He was supervised by Dr Neil Dodgson who says: "James' project was a challenging piece of work; the award is well deserved."

2003 IBM ThinkPad Challenge

Each year the winning Part IB Group Project Team is invited to participate in the IBM ThinkPad Challenge at Hursley. In 2003, the Cambridge team were the outright winners of the ThinkPad Challenge. The final of the contest was held at Hursley on 26 September 2003 with teams from 18 of the best UK Universities battling against each other to win an IBM ThinkPad for each member of the team.

The Cambridge team were: Arthur Taylor, Christian Steinruecken, Andrew Owen, Muntasir Ali, Rui Wang and Sean Moran.

2002 SET Awards

Tim Hospedales of Jesus College received the MISYS Award for the Best Computer or Computer Software Student at the national Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year Awards in September 2002. The SET awards are judged based on students' final year projects. Tim's Part II Project was on eye-movement tracking.

2001 SET Awards

Hanna Wallach (Newnham College) received the MISYS Award for the Best Computer or Computer Software Student for her project "Visual Representation of Computer Aided Design Constraints".

Distinguished Dissertations

2004, Keir Fraser, "Practical Lock-Freedom"
2000, Jacques Fleuriot, "A combination of geometry theorem proving and nonstandard analysis with application to Newton's Principia"
1997, John Harrison, "Theorem proving with real numbers"
1994, Sai-Lai Lo, "A modular and extensible network storage architecture"
1993, Andrew D. Gordon, "Functional programming and input/output"
1990, Andrew Harter, "Three-dimensional integrated circuit layout"

Honours Lists

Prof Andy Hopper received a CBE in 2007.
Prof Roger Needham received a CBE in 2001.
Prof Maurice Wilkes was knighted in 2000.
Dr John Daugman received an OBE in 2000.


Royal Society

Prof Andy Hopper (2006)
Prof Mike Gordon (1994)
Prof Robin Milner (1988)
Prof Roger Needham (1985)
Prof David Wheeler (1981)
Prof Sir Maurice Wilkes (1956)

Royal Academy of Engineering

Prof Jon Crowcroft (1999)
Prof Andy Hopper (1996)
Prof Roger Needham (1993)
Prof Sir Maurice Wilkes (1976)

British Academy

Prof Karen Spärck Jones (1995)