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January 1, 1962
|Alma mater||Cooper Union School of Engineering, B.E. M.E., 1984|
Columbia University, Ph.D., computer science, 1992
|Fields||Operating systems, optimizing compilers|
|Institutions||MicroUnity Systems Engineering, Inc.|
|Thesis||Synthesis: An Efficient Implementation of Fundamental Operating System Services (1992)|
|Doctoral advisor||Calton Pu|
Alexia Massalin (formerly Henry Massalin) is an American computer scientist and programmer. She pioneered the concept of superoptimization, and designed the Synthesis kernel, a small kernel with a Unix compatibility layer that makes heavy use of self-modifying code for efficiency.
Life and career
After high school, she was given a scholarship to the Cooper Union School of Engineering in Manhattan, where she obtained a bachelor's and master's degree. She went to obtain her Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University in 1992, studying under professor Calton Pu.
Massalin's first breakthrough product came while studying at Columbia. Massalin developed Synthesis, an operating system kernel that allocated resources, ran security and low-level hardware interfaces, and created executable code to improve performance. Synthesis optimized critical operating system code using run-time information, which was a new insight previous thought impractical. To support Synthesis, Massalin invented object-like data structures called Quajects, which contain both data and code information.
Massalin is still working on broadband microprocessors.
In a 1996 article in Wired magazine, the author Gary Andrew Poole said she "could be the Einstein of our time." She was well known for offering piggy back rides to people she met, which included notable computer scientists such as Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, and artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky.
- Massalin, Henry (1987). "Superoptimizer: A look at the smallest program" (PDF). ACM SIGARCH Computer Architecture News. 15 (5): 122–126. doi:10.1145/36177.36194. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
Given an instruction set, the superoptimizer finds the shortest program to compute a function. Startling programs have been generated, many of them engaging in convoluted bit-fiddling bearing little resemblance to the source programs which defined the functions. The key idea in the superoptimizer is a probabilistic test that makes exhaustive searches practical for programs of useful size.
- Poole, Gary Andrew (1996-12-01). "Qua". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
- Pu, Calton; Massalin, Henry; Ioannidis, John (1992). Synthesis: An Efficient Implementation of Fundamental Operating System Services (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). New York, NY, USA: Department of Computer Sciences, Columbia University. UMI Order No. GAX92-32050. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2012-04-25. Lay summary (2008-02-20).  Archived 2016-03-12 at the Wayback Machine
- Henson, Valerie. "KHB: Synthesis: An Efficient Implementation of Fundamental Operating Systems Services". LWN.net. LWN.net. Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
- "Company: MicroUnity". Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2012-05-11.
- Poole, Gary Andrew (1998-12-24). "In the Land of the Weird, Standing Out Takes a Little Work". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
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