Stefan Marr receives Royal Society Industry Fellowship for collaboration with Shopify


Dr Stefan Marr, Lecturer at the School of Computing, has received a Royal Society Industry Fellowship to collaborate with Shopify, a leading global commerce company that provides tools to retail business of any size.

From 2021 to 2024, he will work together with Dr Chris Seaton of Shopify on techniques to improve the performance of large-scale applications with millions of lines of code. As part of project FastStart: Fast Single-­Truth Language Runtimes, they will investigate how to build modern programming language implementations that are not just fast for the most common cases.

Large server applications with millions of lines of code do many many different things, and at the same time change many times a day. Modern techniques such as just-in-time compilation, while very successful at speeding up the most common parts of a program, struggle at these enormous scales. The goal of the project is to reimagine techniques developed in the ’80s and ’90s to improve the performance of the interpreters, which are essential for speeding up everything including the not so common parts of huge programs.

Dr Marr said: ‘Thanks to the Royal Society, we have the unique opportunity to collaborate with Shopify and apply our basic research ideas in the context of industrial scale systems, which have problems your typical compiler book wouldn’t even dare to dream about. The opportunity to experiment with ideas at this scale is rare for us academics, and I am looking very much forward to working with Chris to solve not just Shopify’s problems, but develop new language implementation techniques that will help everyone, from the browser on their mobile phones to the large scale systems of e-commerce providers’.

Dr Chris Seaton at Shopify said: ‘Dr Marr is a leading member of the dynamic programming language community. We’re looking forward to collaborating with him to develop new research-level techniques to allow the foundational languages and tools that our systems are built on to better handle the extreme global scale and pace of an environment like Shopify.’