Commendation for James Hanlon - Department of Computer Science
Supervisors: Dr Simon Hollis and Professor David May
PhD project: Scalable abstractions for distributed parallel computations
I became interested in computer architecture early on in my undergraduate studies. Its appeal stemmed from its variety in the different aspects of computer science it draws from, combining the theoretical and practical. Together with this, I found the concept of universal designs fascinating, where an algorithm, language or architecture can be engineered to obtain good performance over general use cases. This interest led to general-purpose parallel computation becoming the subject of my PhD.
The concept of generality is essential for the long-term success of parallel computers because it simplifies the task of programming and enables standardisation between implementations, resulting in software portability and high-volume production. The work in my thesis attempts to demonstrate the essential aspects of a general-purpose model and its feasibility. It presents practical proposals for a programming language and machine architecture, and an empirical evaluation of these using current manufacturing technologies. The central idea of the work is that it is essential to consider the architecture and programming model together to obtain a general design.
My PhD has been a hugely rewarding experience, although at times, not without its difficulties! I have been very fortunate to have been inspired and supported by some fantastic members of the department. I have also had the opportunity to travel to the US and Europe to attend conferences, to be involved with teaching for undergraduate courses and to work at Imperial College London as a visiting student.
I studied computer science at the University of Bristol and completed the undergraduate masters course, obtaining an MEng in 2009. For this, I completed a dissertation that investigated routing algorithms for parallel computer interconnects.
Immediately after my undergraduate degree, I started my PhD in the same department, supported by an EPSRC scholarship. Initially, I continued with the research from my undergraduate dissertation but I changed focus to look at the relationship between programming languages and computer architecture, in the context of parallel computation. This interest developed from my experience working at XMOS, a designer of parallel computers in Bristol.
I completed the PhD at the end of 2013 and I now work as a technical consultant at Red Oak Consulting in Cheltenham, where I am involved with the design and evaluation of high-performance computing systems.