Research Assistant/Associate in CHERI Operating Systems

Department of Computer Science and Technology, West Cambridge

University of Cambridge, Trinity Ln, Cambridge, UK


  • Posted on: 16th Feb 2021
  • Salary: £26,715 - £30,942
    or £32,816 - £40,322
  • REF: NR25700
  • Closes: 14th March 2021
  • Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
  • Hours: Full Time

Research Assistant: £26,715 -£30,942 or Research Associate: £32,816 -£40,322

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance.

We are seeking a Research Associate with a strong background in the operating systems to contribute to the CHERI Project and our joint work with Arm on their prototype Morello board, which incorporates CHERI into a high-end superscalar ARMv8-A processor. CHERI is a highly successful collaboration between the University of Cambridge, SRI International, and Arm to develop new architectural security primitives. The CHERI protection model extends off-the-shelf processor Instruction-Set Architectures (ISAs) and processors with new capability-based security primitives supporting fine-grained C/C++-language memory protection and scalable software compartmentalization.

CHERI has been developed over the past ten years as part of multiple DARPA-supported research projects, and is the subject of long-term transition efforts to the ARMv8-A and RISC-V architectures. As part of UKRI’s ISCF Digital Security by Design Challenge (DSbD), Arm is designing and building an experimental CHERI-extended CPU, System-on-Chip, and development board, Morello, which will be available to academia and industry from late 2021. Simultaneously, the CHERI Project is developing a series of FPGA-based CHERI-RISC-V prototype processors. This research position will (a) contribute to the research into the adaptation of advanced OS features to CHERI and Morello, including tracing/instrumentation/debugging, virtualization, and runtimes; and (b) contribute, both before and after Morello ships, to research activities that explore, prototype, and evaluate software approaches to using the new architecture. These activities will also feed back into future ISA and microarchitectural design, as well as real-world software stacks being used in academic and industrial research and development. More information on CHERI can be found at:

This position will be an integral part of an international team of researchers spanning multiple institutions in academia and industry. Successful candidates will have significant research and engineering expertise in OS kernel development, with a particular interest in experience with the FreeBSD operating system (which is used heavily in this project), and will collaborate with academic and industrial partners over the multi-year project.

The position will benefit from strong existing experience with the C/C++ programming languages; MIPS, RISC-V, or ARMv8-A assembly; revision control; release engineering; continuous integration; and participation in large (and ideally distributed) industrial, research, or open-source collaborative development projects. Past research and development experience with OS kernel internals is essential. Strong interpersonal and organisational skills, and the ability to work in an international team at multiple sites, will also be important in this role.

This post will require active engagement with downstream industrial and open-source user communities, as well as research collaborators and sponsors. Initially this will be online, but it is expected that, as the COVID-19 crisis abates, this will also involve domestic and international travel.

This post is intended to start on 1 October 2021, but there is flexibility with respect to earlier or later start dates. Our team is highly distributed, with multiple remote members. International applicants may be able to begin work remotely, due to COVID-19, but should contact the department to confirm potential applicability and anticipated arrangements. It is expected that successful candidates will work on-site in Cambridge in due course.

Questions about the post may be addressed to Dr Robert N. M. Watson

Click the ‘Apply’ button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please provide a Curriculum Vitae (including publication list and details of two references) as a single combined PDF and a brief statement of the contribution you would make to the project, drawing attention to relevant experience with OS research and development. If you upload any additional documents which haven’t been requested, we will not be able to consider these as part of your application.

For additional background regarding the CHERI technology being developed by the team and its collaborators, please see our Technical Report UCAM-CL-TR-941, An Introduction to CHERI.

Please quote reference NR25700 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.
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