Programming Principles and Tools

Established: March 27, 2000

Programming Principles and ToolsThe Programming Principles and Tools group devises formal techniques and models for understanding programs, programming abstractions and languages, and develops related implementation technology.
Programming Principles and Tools is part of Microsoft Research Cambridge.  Our work can be grouped into four themes:

ppt-2Programming principles
We develop new ways to write, structure and reason about programs running in various environments. This includes advanced type and module systems, logics and semantic models, and probabilistic programming for machine learning.

We contribute to the Haskell and F# programming languages. We have a strong interest in the Coq theorem prover. We build world-class verification tools as well as tools for modelling various biological systems.

ppt-4Constructive security
We work on various security and privacy issues surrounding programming, applications and systems. [more]

ppt-5Systems biology
We focus on the design and analysis of executable programs describing biological phenomena, DNA computing, and molecular programming.


Recent News

  • Welcome to our latest PPT interns: Ben Dowling, Emilie Feral, Wing Lam, Matthijs Vakar, Omer Agacan, Matthew Windsor, Edward Zulkoski, John Feser, Jonathan Balkind, Siddharth Krishna.
  • Welcome to Neil Toronto who has joined PPT as a Research Software Engineer.  Neil previously worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Maryland, USA.
  • Simon Peyton Jones has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
  • Congratulations to Cedric Fournet and Markulf Kohlweiss who received the Levchin Prize, provided by internet entrepreneur Max Levchin, at the Real World Cryptography Conference.
  • The open-source release of miTLS happened during the last Open Source Summit in Paris on 18 November 2015.  This featured in Next at Microsoft and OpennessCedric got interviewed for The Register too.  Further information can be found on the project website here.
  • Luca Cardelli has been awarded the 2015 ACM SIGPLAN Programming Languages Achievement Award.
  • Congratulations to Santiago Zanella-Beguelin who received a Best Paper Award at ACM CCS on 12 October 2015.  The paper ‘Imperfect Forward Secrecy: How Diffie-Hellman Fails In Practice’ can be found here.  The official announcement can be found on the ACM website but mistakenly listed as Best Student Paper Award.  The paper also got a Pwnie Award for Most Innovative Research at BlackHat 2015 on 3 August 2015.
  • Congratulations to Cedric Fournet and Markulf Kohlweiss, and their INRIA colleagues for a distinguished paper award at IEEE Security and Privacy, Oakland.  The paper “A Messy State of the Union: Taming the Composite State Machines of TLS” is on testing implementations of TLS using a test harness built over their reference implementation miTLS, which led to their discovery of the FREAK attack on TLS.
  • Cedric Fournet and Markulf Kohlweiss make it into the The Register for producing Geppetto.


You’re welcome to play with some of our work in your browser!


The Programming Principles and Tools group is always looking for Interns and Post-docs. We are also interested to hear from outstanding researchers and especially recent PhDs. For further information please contact Andy Gordon or any member of the team.

Programming Principlesand Tools Research GroupMicrosoft Research21 Station RoadCambridge CB1 2FB, UK+44 1223 479700





April 2014

A decomposition-based parallel SAT solver that decomposes SAT formulas efficiently and reconciles solutions between partitions by means of propositional (Craig) interpolation.

    Click the icon to access this download

  • Website


The executable path to Myc

Established: August 6, 2012

Myc is a key oncogene in various cancers occurring across a diverse range of tissues. In order to better understand and treat these cancers, it is vital that we understand how the opposing functions of Myc, proliferation and apoptosis, are…

Predictive dynamic model of Glioblastoma early development

Established: September 2, 2013

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and most malignant form of brain cancer, being characterised by relentless growth and aggressive invasion into the healthy brain tissue, resulting in extremely poor outcome. Given the complexity and cell heterogeneity observed in…

Decoding transcriptional programs of blood cell development

Established: December 3, 2012

Understanding the mechanisms that govern stem cell self-renewal and cell fate decisions are fundamental to regenerative medicine and to understanding how these mechanisms are perturbed in disease states. Blood cell development (haematopoiesis) has long stood as a paradigm for studying…

Ziria – Wireless Programming for Hardware Dummies

Established: June 16, 2014

Software-defined radios (SDR) have a potential to bring major innovation in wireless networking design. However, their impact so far has been limited due to complex programming tools. Ziria addresses this problem. It consists of a novel programming language and an…

Mechanisms of stem cell homeostasis during C. elegans germline development

Established: October 1, 2012

The establishment of homeostasis between cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis is of key importance for organogenesis. Stem cells respond to temporally and spatially regulated signals by switching from mitotic proliferation to asymmetric cell division and differentiation. Executable computer models of…

Whole-organism model of C. elegans development

Established: January 6, 2013

The nematode C. elegans, with its invariant lineage, serves as a model organism for the study of development. We aim to create an open-source, extensible whole-organism model of C. elegans development to which the worm community can add new information.…

University of Edinburgh Microsoft Research Joint Initiative in Informatics

The joint initiative celebrates and consolidates research ties between the School of Informatics of the University of Edinburgh, and Microsoft Research, through the annual award of studentships to four PhD scholars within the Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship programme. The initiative was launched…

Privacy-friendly smart metering

Many smart metering proposals threaten users' privacy by disclosing fine-grained consumption data to utilities. We have designed protocols that allow for precise billing of consumption while not revealing any consumption information to third parties. We also have developped protocols that…

F7: Refinement Types for F#

Established: May 29, 2008

F7 is an enhanced typechecker for the F# programming language, a dialect of ML. F7 pioneers the static checking of security properties expressed with refinement types. Although the original motivation was to check security properties, F7 is not security-specific and…

News archive

  • F# 4.0 has been released in Visual Studio 2015 community preview releases. F# is open source and cross-platform. Our group contribute to F#, and the language designer is Don Syme, a researcher in our group.
  • F# type providers and cloud programming featured at dotnetconf Microsoft’s online conference for .NET. Using research results from our group, collaborators Tomas Petricek (fsharpWorks) and Isaac Abraham (elastacloud) presented this joint work with Don Syme on 19 March 2015 in an online presentation from Skype HQ, London.
  • On 19 November 2014, Tony Hoare was awarded an Honorary Prize Fellowship of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. He gave a well attended lecture, addressing the question ‘Can Computers Understand their Own Programs?’. His positive answer was supported by a survey of ideas derived from Aristotle, Euclid, and Alan Turing.
  • Andrey Rybalchenko and Nuno Lopes have been awarded the HVC’14 Award for a PLDI’12 paper “Synthesizing Software Verifiers from Proof Rules [more]
  • Ben Hall has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship [more]
  • Together with external collaborators Christoph Wintersteiger received the IJCAR 2014 Best Paper Award together [more]
  • Ben Hall’s work on modelling safety valves in neurons has just appeared in Nature Communications [more]
  • T2 Temporal Prover now open source[download] [more]
  • Matthew Parkinson is the recipient of the 2013 Dahl-Nygaard prize [more]
  • Georges Gonthier recently completed an historic computer-assisted proof of the Feit-Thompson Theorem [more]
  • Jasmin Fisher‘s work on modelling cancer cells was featured in Nature [more]