Computing Science Professor Receives Prestigious Amazon Research Award

October 19, 2022

By: Deborah Acheampong

SFU computing science professor Steve Ko is among the prestigious list of the 2021 Amazon Research Awards. He joins 73 exceptional academic researchers who represent 51 universities in 17 countries chosen for this award. The award recognizes the creativity, social research impact and the practical applications of submitted research proposals.

Making a shift from his research specialization in mobile computing, Ko is employing a symbolic execution technique in Rust —a relatively new programming language, to improve the reliability and security of systems software.

The Rust language has in recent times received a lot of popularity and interest from systems software developers due to its safety features. The Rust language, however, still lags in providing absolute protection against bugs and other security vulnerabilities.

“I am developing a symbolic execution technique that can be used to find bugs and other security threats in software to further improve the reliability and security of Rust programs,” says Ko.

When released, the symbolic execution tool will be useful to Rust developers. These developers will be able to use the tool to write more reliable and secure software for their Rust programs, and test for any bugs and security vulnerabilities. The use of the symbolic execution tool in Rust programming will also help end users enjoy more reliability and security when using software and computers.  

To support this innovative research, Ko will be receiving unrestricted funds and Amazon Web Services Promotional Credits from the Amazon Research Award program.

“It gives me the confidence to know that not only myself but also industry is interested in what I am proposing to do,” he says.

“This is a competitive award and goes a long way to support my students and postdocs to pursue my research agenda. I am happy to be a recipient.”

Describing the project as ongoing, he and his research team hope to publish their research and make the symbolic execution tool available as open source for the benefit of the entire research and developer community.

Ko believes his growing interest in improving the reliability and security of system software is a great catalyst to develop the symbolic execution tool. He hopes for a future where users are confident in the use of their software and computers.