PhD Student Haopeng Liu awarded Harper Dissertation Fellowship

For his graduate research studying timing bugs in distributed systems, 4th-year PhD student Haopeng Liu was one of nine students awarded the 2018 Harper Dissertation Fellowship.

The annual award, one of the highest University of Chicago honors for doctoral candidates, bestows $4,000 to graduate students conducting groundbreaking research.

Liu, who is advised by Associate Professor Shan Lu, studies software reliability in distributed and cloud systems, with a focus on non-deterministic bugs caused by synchronization and other timing issues.

The challenge is similar to the game “Whack-a-Mole,” Liu said. Operators need to anticipate system-crashing bugs that do not always happen, but can be potentially catastrophic for distributed systems, where multiple machine communication and component failures are new sources of non-deterministic in comparison to traditional single-machine software systems.

By analyzing and modeling when these timing bugs are likely to occur, Liu has built tools such as DCatch, FCatch, and PCatch that automatically predict and detect these issues, so that operators can respond and prevent downstream failures. He presented his work at prestigious conferences such as the ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) in 2017 and 2018 and EuroSys 2018 in Portugal.

Liu said he was thrilled to receive the Harper fellowship to support the writing of his dissertation over the next academic year, and credited UChicago CS for creating a fertile environment of intellectual freedom.

“Winning this Harper fellowship is not only a reflection of my personal accomplishment, but more importantly a reflection of my fantastic advisor, my great collaborators, and our top notch computer science department.” Liu said.