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Sarah Chasins '12 Tops International Computing Research Competition

Sarah Chasins presents her research on a new programming language, Plaid.

Recent highest honors graduate Sarah Chasins '12 has received a prestigious award from the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) through its 2012 Student Research Competition. Arguably the most influential professional organization in computer science, ACM placed Chasins first in an international undergraduate research competition at the ACM Awards Banquet, held in San Francisco this summer.

Before entering the ACM research competition, undergraduate computer science students first enter research competitions at regional conferences sponsored by ACM. Chasins was First Place Winner of the ACM Undergraduate Student Research Competition at the Systems, Programming, Languages, and Applications (SPLASH): Software for Humanity Conference held in Portland, Oregon last fall. Chasins' placing qualified her to compete against other regional winners, with her receiving the top prize.  

Chasins conducted her research, "Efficient Implementation of the Plaid Language," with Jonathan Aldrich of Carnegie Mellon during a summer research experience. Plaid is a new programming language developed by Aldrich and his research students and, as part of her research, Chasins built a JavaScript-based code generator that is 47 times faster in producing code compared to a previous Java-based implementation. In addition, she measured the performance of her design empirically against a set of standard benchmarks.

"Sarah did absolutely first-class technical work, but it was also paired with great delivery of her results in the form of her paper, poster, and oral presentation at SPLASH," Aldrich says. "It takes both to go the distance in a setting like the ACM research competition."

Chasins based her senior thesis on the findings from her noteworthy research and graduated with an honors major in computer science, a course major in behavioral economics, and an honors minor in psychology. Presently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science at UC-Berkeley.

During her time at Swarthmore, Chasins stood out in the Computer Science Department. "She consistently performed at the top of the class," says associate professor Tia Newhall. "That she has done some amazing independent project work in our courses is an excellent predictor of a students' research abilities and aptitude for graduate study in CS." 

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