This post continues our ongoing series on young PL researchers who are about to start independent research positions in academia and research labs. This week, we feature Ravi Chugh, who is starting as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago in the Fall.
Tell us a bit about your academic background.
What is the sort of research that you like to do?
What’s cool about PL research is that a single problem may lead you to spend all your time coding, all your time scratching out equations and proofs, or split your time somewhere in between these extremes. The kinds of problems I tend to like to fall near the middle of this spectrum. The essence of the problem can be formulated and studied precisely and then theoretical insights can be scaled up to practical applications with careful and clever engineering.
We’d like to read one paper of yours to get a flavor of your work. Which one should that be, and what’s it about?
What new problems are you exploring, or plan to explore, once you start your faculty job?
What are the things about PL research and the PL community that you like the most?
It’s great to have such a wide variety of technical and engineering challenges in PL. Even better, because programming languages and programming tools are the most common interfaces between computer science and other disciplines, PL researchers have plenty of potential application domains for their ideas. In terms of community, I have always been grateful for how welcoming most older students, faculty, and senior researchers are towards younger students at PL conferences. There are certainly ways that we can become more inclusive, especially for underrepresented groups, but I think the PL community is in a good place overall.
What would you like to see more of in the PL community?
I think we can do better overall, both in our papers and presentations, in connecting our new ideas to previous work. There are obviously way more topics and papers than we can each keep up with, so we should strive to ensure that our own papers and talks are accessible to broad audiences and make clear connections to related work. Many topics in PL can be modeled and studied with precise definitions, so we should take advantage of this as much as possible.
What advice would you have for graduate students who want a faculty job in the next couple of years?
It is a good time for computer science departments, in general, and for programming languages research, in particular. Nevertheless, there will always be far fewer faculty positions available than there are extremely qualified researchers and teachers. So my main advice is to make sure that you spend your time working on projects that you are passionate about, no matter what career path you are pursuing. We are fortunate in computer science to have many opportunities in industry and academia to work on problems that are exciting and have potential for impact. A faculty position is not the only way to achieve these goals.