Aug 16, 2022 • Research, RustEditsPermalink

A New Beginning

I have some very exciting news to share: starting November 1st, I will work at ETH Zürich as an assistant professor! Becoming a professor in the first place is a dream come true, and becoming a professor at a place like ETH Zürich is not something I even dared to dream of. I still cannot quite believe that this is actually happening (I will be professor?!??), but the news is out so I guess this is real. :D

I feel excited and terrified in about equal parts. Excited by all the new possibilities, by the prospect of working with students and inspiring the next generation of researchers; terrified by all the responsibility and the prospect of having to stand in a classroom and give a lecture in only a few months’ time. But somehow everyone else seems confident that I can do this, so I guess I’ll just play along and hope that I will not prove them wrong…

I am also humbled and eternally thankful for being given this opportunity. Being able to work in an environment like ETH is a privilege beyond imagination, and I don’t know how I got so lucky. I probably used up all my Karma points for the rest of my life, and will do my best to honor this privilege. I feel hugely indebted to everyone I worked with, first and foremost of course my PhD advisor Derek Dreyer. But I would also like to specifically call out the Rust community, because I don’t think this would have happened without Rust – thanks to everyone who contributed to this language that I am essentially building my career on1, and thanks in particular to everyone who indulged in my ideas for how Rust should approach unsafe code and helped me shape that corner of the language.

So what’s next? I will soon finish my post-doc at MIT and move back to Europe, and then move to Zürich in October. And then I will have to figure out how this being-a-professor thing works. ;) My first main priority is building a research group: the “Programming Language Foundations Lab”2. So if you are interested in doing a PhD or post-doc working on, well, programming language foundations, and in particular formal foundations for Rust, or if you are an ETH student interested in a Master Thesis in that area – please reach out! I am still figuring out how to do things like hiring people and finding suitable projects, but there is no shortage of open problems that need solving and theorems that need proving. :)

  1. Before anyone gets worried, I also have some ideas I want to pursue that are unrelated to Rust. But Rust is currently by far the biggest inspiration for new research problems for me, and without Rust I don’t think my research would be anywhere near as applied and impactful as it is today, which I am sure played a key role in the decision of ETH to hire me. 

  2. Yes, I have a lab coat. I don’t usually wear it though… and if you want to see me wear it, that will cost you some beer. 

Posted on Ralf's Ramblings on Aug 16, 2022.
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