Department Welcomes New Victor Basili Fellow for 2020-2022

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The Department of Computer Science is pleased to welcome our new Victor Basili Fellow for Fall 2020: Michael Coblenz

The Victor Basili Postdoctoral Fellowship Program focuses on supporting young researchers doing work on methods to ensure that software applied to pressing societal problems is trustworthy, reliable, and  correct. 

A PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University, Coblenz’s dissertation focused on user-centered design methods for programming languages. He has created Obsidian, a new programming language for blockchain smart contracts, which integrates a strong, static type system to make writing blockchain software safer. His work focuses on developing reusable methods for designing and implementing programming languages that help software engineers be more effective. In short, he is seeking to bring more science to the art of programming language design and implementation.

When asked about the opportunity afforded by the Basili Fellowship, Coblenz said, “I am very excited to join the department! The Basili Fellowship will be very helpful in connecting me to the innovative research projects underway and to pursue my own research projects at the same time.” 

Prior to joining CMU, Coblenz worked at Apple as a senior software engineer on the iWork team, focusing on Numbers. He has worked on versions for macOS, iOS, and iCloud.

Coblenz’s overall interest is in designing programming languages to improve developers' effectiveness and is working towards developing new principles for language design that let language designers make informed choices regarding how their language design decisions will affect the users of their languages.

He  plans to study the relationship between API design and programming language design in order to find principles that apply to both APIs and to programming languages; the aim is to ultimately provide evidence-based guidance to language designers.

Coblenz expressed his excitement in working with his mentors at UMD. “My mentors, Professor Michael Hicks, Professor Adam Porter, and Associate Professor Michelle Mazurek have deep and valuable experience in programming language design, software engineering, and human-computer interaction and I look forward to working with them. The intersection of all of those areas is a great place to work right now, since figuring out how to use user-centered methods to benefit software engineers through better tools could make life better for programmers and software engineers around the world,” he said.

The Victor Basili Fellowship is a department initiative that supports multiple post-doctoral researchers for a 2-year period, with new positions opening each year, to promote research collaborations that will solve a variety of problems in government and industry by using cutting-edge software engineering and programming languages research.


The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.