Nikos Vasilakis

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Nikos in Germany for EdgeSys18

Long-term, I am interested in lowering system complexity—the primary barrier to the scale of software systems humans can build and operate. For example, what does it take to make developing distributed systems as easy and flexible as ordinary scripting?

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, advised by Jonathan M. Smith. My work falls under distributed systems, programming languages, and systems security. Recently, I've worked on general-purpose distributed environments, automated distribution, application compartmentalization, sandboxing of third-party libraries, and distributed storage systems.

I co-organize the weekly Distributed Systems Lab seminar. We're always on the lookout for guest speakers—feel free to get in touch!

E-mail: | GitHub: @nvasilakis

Recent Publications

Ignis: Light-touch Scale-out of Distribution-oblivious Systems

Nikos Vasilakis, Yash Palkhiwala, Ben Karel, John Sonchack, André DeHon, Jonathan M. Smith
ACM SIGPLAN conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI19)
html | pdf | bibtex | code (coming)

The Web as a Distributed Computing Platform

Nikos Vasilakis, Pranjal Goel, Henri Maxime Demoulin, Jonathan M. Smith
1st ACM Workshop on Edge Systems, Analytics and Networking (EdgeSys18)
Received Best Paper Award
pdf | bibtex

BreakApp: Automated, Flexible Application Compartmentalization

Nikos Vasilakis, Ben Karel, Nick Roessler, Nathan Dautenhahn, André DeHon, and Jonathan M. Smith
IEEE Networked and Distributed Systems Security Symposium (NDSS18)
html | pdf | bibtex | code

Query-efficient Partitions for Dynamic Data

Nikos Vasilakis, Yash Palkhiwala, Jonathan M. Smith
8th ACM Asia-Pacific Conference on Systems (APSys17)
html | pdf | bibtex | code

Towards Automated, Fine-grained Application Compartmentalization

Nikos Vasilakis, Ben Karel, Nick Roessler, Nathan Dautenhahn, André DeHon, and Jonathan M. Smith
9th Workshop on Programming Languages and Operating Systems (PLOS17) in conjunction with SOSP17
html | pdf | bibtex | code

Architectural Support for Software-Defined Metadata Processing

Udit Dhawan, Cătălin Hriţcu, Raphael Rubin, Nikos Vasilakis, Silviu Chiricescu, Jonathan M. Smith, Thomas F. Knight Jr., Benjamin C. Pierce, and André DeHon
12th ACM Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS2015)
pdf | bibtex

From Lone Dwarfs to Giant Superclusters:
Rethinking Operating System Abstractions for the Cloud

Nikos Vasilakis, Ben Karel, and Jonathan M. Smith
15th Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems (HotOSXV)
html | pdf | bibtex | code

(Full list of publications and bibtex entries.)


I have (co-)organized several seminars, reading groups, and coding bootcamps such as the Distributed Systems Seminar and the Operating Systems Reading Group. If you are interested in presenting research that might fit into our systems seminar , feel free to get in touch!

I have assisted in the teaching of various courses, most notably:

CIS 551 – Computer and Network Security
CIS 555 – Internet and Web Systems
CIS 700 – Programming and Problem Solving

Honors and Awards

Here is a partial list of one-off awards related to research and entrepreneurship.

2018 — EdgeSys18, Best Paper Award (Ar)
2017 — Penn Research iTalks, Audience Award (BreakApp)
2015 — UD HenHatch Entrepreneurship, 3rd place (GoHappy)
2014 — NYC Media Lab Summit, 3rd place (Gistly)
2014 — CCNY Zahn Entrepreneurship, Runner-up (Gistly)
2010 — PC & T3 Magazine, Tech Excellence Award (FinN)
2009 — ACM/SIGCHI ACE, Gold Creative Showcase Award (FinN)
2008 — IEEE SenSys, Best Demo Award (FinN)

Travel grants: ACM/SIGOPS APSys (Unispace) and ACM/SIGARCH ASPLOS (PUMP).


I am deeply interested in all forms of creative expression, and particularly any visual, auditory, and interactive art. My main contribution in this space was as a founding member of a music duo, Ailo. We released {downtempo, chillout, ambient, lounge} music under several record labels mostly across Europe — most notably Germany, Italy, UK, Israel, Netherlands, and Hungary. A decade later, you can still find it on Breatport, Spotify, iTunes,, Amazon, Google Music, and your favorite vinyl shop. Releasing music under record labels is surprisingly similar to peer-reviewed publishing in academia.

Other interests include art film, sports, photography, history, travelling, teaching, and natural languages.