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Funded PhD Studentship in Program Analysis for Static and Dynamic Type-checking

University of Kent - The School of Computing

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Kent
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: The studentship covers UK/EU fees, a travel budget and a stipend for 3.5 years. (See further details below)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 3rd June 2019
Closes: 31st August 2019

The School of Computing is currently inviting applications for a 3.5 year, funded PhD scholarship in program analysis for static and dynamic type-checking. Funded by the UK Research Institute in Verified Trustworthy Software Systems and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre and under the supervision of Stephen Kell, at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

The PhD Project

The post is suited to a wide range of applicants with strong practical skills and an interest in reasoning about programs. You will join a large research group that combines practical system-building (programming language implementations, tools, operating systems) with theory (formal semantics, verification, proof).

Type-checking is a static program analysis which conservatively rejects programs not provably free of certain run-time errors. It proceeds mostly syntactically, in a way prescribed by the target language semantics. Although popular and successful, it suffers two recurring problems: conservatism and poor error messages. This project will explore ahead-of-time checking for the same classes of run-time error in ways which may avoid these problems. The goal is to bring the benefits of ahead-of-time checking to more programmers and more code -- including code which would not pass a conventional type-checker. The initial approach is to reformulate type-checking as a special case of a more general analysis: an underapproximate program exploration (symbolic execution) combined with a program abstraction techniques that can opportunistically recover precise checking (program slicing). Some flexibility is available, so candidates interested in this research plan or any similar mixture of problems and techniques are very much encouraged to apply.

This research is part of the Programming Languages and Systems Group, one of the largest programming languages research groups in Europe. It is currently ranked 17th worldwide by the independent CSrankings website. We provide a supportive environment for research and we have a vibrant postgraduate population.

Funding available

The studentship covers UK/EU fees, a travel budget and a stipend for 3.5 years. There is an option to teach, but no requirement. Non-EU students are welcome to apply but are subject to higher fees and would need to find funding for the difference.

In the 2019-20 academic year, the maintenance grant will be £15,009 plus fees at the home/EU rate of £4,327 making a total of £19,336. The maintenance grant and fees are reviewed annually.


Applications will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.

Expected Start Date

September 2019 or January 2020

Application Process

  • Contact Stephen Kell by e-mail ( as soon as possible, including a brief CV.
  • Submit a formal application through the University of Kent online admissions form with the PhD Project text, given above, pasted into the "Reasons for study" section by 31 August 2019. Your application should include a completed online admission form; the name and contact details of two referees; an original document providing confirmation of your degree (or a transcript if the degree is not yet awarded). For non-native English speakers, a certificate of competence in English is required at IELTS 6.5 or higher, with no element less than 6.0 (or equivalent).


For technical queries about the project, email Stephen Kell For queries regarding the application procedure, email the postgraduate research admissions officer: Laura Bocchi

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