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Department of Computer Science and Technology

A Livery Company celebrating 400 years of history is honouring a student researching cutting-edge technology.

Mingle Chen, who is in his final year of studying for an MEng degree here, is the latest recipient of the annual Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers' Award for Excellence and Achievement in Computer Hardware.

He received the award for his dissertation research last year on CHERI (Capability Hardware Enhanced RISC Instructions). This is a protection model that allows hardware and software to work together to prevent computers' security vulnerabilities being exploited by attackers.

For his project, Mingle joined CHERI researchers looking at how to make the CHERI security technology viable to use in the hardware designs for the open-source RISC-V computer architecture.

He used simulation to explore how CHERI changes the performance of computer software. He was able to identify weaknesses in the current approach and propose ways to significantly improve its performance.

Linking research with potential widespread use
Prof Robert Watson, co-leader of the CHERI project, says: "Mingle's work has longevity beyond his dissertation – the larger team is now using the techniques that he developed as part of the industrial standardisation of CHERI."

Mingle has joined the team again this year for his final-year research project. Prof Watson adds: "His work is very promising because it is helping to link exciting research with potential widespread industrial use, and his project brought new insights that will have real-world impact."

High grade gold and silver wire
It may seem curious that Mingle received his award from the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, a Livery Company promoting the skill of producing very high grade gold and silver wire and thread typically used for embroidering flags, banners, uniforms and vestments.

But while the wire drawers' skills were first brought to London by European craftsmen during the 15th century and the Company was formally established 400 years ago in 1623, those skills are still in use today, including for high-tech purposes.

High-grade gold wire, for example, is a key component of the hundreds of billions of microchips and microprocessors produced worldwide. To reflect this evolution, the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers established an annual award here in the Department in 2019 for exceptional work in the design or development of computer hardware.

This is now the fourth time that the award has been presented to a student here. Mingle received it at a dinner at Vintners' Hall in London where he was also able to meet two previous winners: Gábor Pituk and Jack Parkinson. The award was presented to him by the Company's first female Master, Mrs Catharine Carr. 

He says: "I commend the Company for seamlessly blending traditional craftsmanship with contemporary technology through this award. I was very honoured to be presented with it among such esteemed company."

Published by Rachel Gardner on Wednesday 1st May 2024