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December 2014

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"Program Synthesis for the Masses"

Speaker ECE faculty candidate - Rishabh Singh of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Date: 3/20/2014
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Coordinated Science Laboratory, Room 301
Event Type: Academic


New computing platforms have greatly increased the demand for programmers, but learning to program remains a big challenge. Program synthesis has the potential to revolutionize  programming by making it more accessible. Singh's work has focused on two goals: making programming more intuitive through the use of new interfaces, and using automated feedback to help students learn programming. In this talk, Singh will present his work on two systems that work towards these goals: Autograder and FlashFill.

The Autograder system provides automated feedback to students on introductory  programming assignments, and was successfully piloted on thousands of programming exercises from edX. The FlashFill system helps end-users perform repetitive data transformations over strings, numbers, and tables using input-output examples.

FlashFill was shipped as part of Excel 2013 and was quoted as one of the top features by many press reviews. Singh will describe how ideas from advances in constraint-solving, machine learning, and formal verification enabled the new forms of interaction required by these systems.


Rishabh Singh is a PhD candidate in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. His research interests are broadly in formal methods and programming languages. His PhD work focuses on developing program synthesis techniques for making programming accessible to end-users and students. He is a Microsoft Research PhD fellow and winner of MIT's William A. Martin Outstanding Master's Thesis Award. He obtained his BTech in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 2008, where he was awarded the Institute Silver Medal and Bigyan Sinha Memorial Award. He was also awarded to be Prime Minister's National Guest at Republic Day Parade, New Delhi in 2005.