Purdue University Graduate School
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Metaprogramming Program Analyzers

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posted on 2023-07-28, 20:04 authored by Guannan WeiGuannan Wei

Static program analyzers are vital tools to produce useful insights about programs without executing these programs. These insights can be used to improve the quality of programs, e.g., detecting defects in programs, or optimizing programs to use fewer resources. However, building static program analyzers that are simultaneously sound, performant, and flexible is notoriously challenging.

This dissertation aims to address this challenge by exploring the potential of applying correct-by-construction metaprogramming techniques to build static program analyzers. Metaprogramming techniques manipulate and transform programs as data objects.  In this thesis, we consider static program analyzers as the objects to be manipulated or transformed. We show that metaprogramming techniques can improve our understanding, the construction, flexibility, and performance of program analyzers.

We first study the inter-derivation of abstract interpreters. Using off-the-shelf program transformation techniques such as refunctionalization, we demonstrate that big-step abstract interpreters can be mechanically derived from their small-step counterparts, thus building a functional correspondence between two different styles of abstract interpretation.

To build high-performance program analyzers, we exploit the first Futamura projection to build compilers for abstract interpretation and symbolic execution. The first Futamura projection states that specializing an interpreter with respect to an input program is a process equivalent to compilation, thus providing a practical way to repurpose interpreters for compilation and code generation. We systematically apply this idea to build program-analysis compilers by writing analyzers as staged interpreters using higher-level abstractions. The staged interpreter can be used for generating sound and performant analysis code given a specific input program. Moreover, the approach enables using abstractions without regret: by using higher-level program abstractions, the analyzer can be written in a way that is close to its high-level specification (e.g. big-step operational semantics), and by compilation, the analyzer is performant since it does not need to pay the runtime overhead of using these abstraction mechanisms.

We also develop novel type systems that track sharing and separation in higher-order imperative languages. Such type systems are useful both for general-purpose programming languages and for optimization of domain-specific metaprograms such as those program-analysis compilers.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tiark Rompf

Additional Committee Member 2

Benjamin Delaware

Additional Committee Member 3

Suresh Jagannathan

Additional Committee Member 4

Xiangyu Zhang