Alex Potanin

Associate Professor, Associate Director HDR, BSEng/BEngSE Convener, and MIEAust


Alex completed his PhD in 2006 on Generic Ownership - showing how type polymorphism can be used to provide ownership type support in any language, such as the modern-day Rust Programming Language that popularised this approach. Alex went on to show deep connections between ownership and immutability with the help of the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Funding in 2008 - 2011 with a book chapter on Immutability outlining all the core outcomes of this novel approach.

After a full-year sabbatical at what was then the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University working with Professor Jonathan Aldrich, Alex created a novel general-purpose Wyvern Programming Language designed from the ground up with security and usability as its primary goals. There were a large number of students and publications that came out of that project over the following decade including novel ideas for type-specific languages and decidable typing for type members - some of which are reflected in the modern generation of the industrial Scala Programming Language.

Alex is currently working on some ideas for the modern module systems designs based on capabilities, combinations of abstract and algebraic effects, and other programming language design ideas including for the world of fully verified and secure software. Additionally, Alex has an interest in agricultural sensing for Nitrate pollution including projects in collaboration with the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

As part of Alex’s current job, in addition to the normal Associate Professor and Associate Director HDR duties, he leads the Diversity, Belonging, Inclusion, and Equity Working Group at the School of Computing, Alex is the program convenor for the Bachelor of Engineering in Software Engineering including looking after the Work Experience Program, and Alex is the Review Committee Chair for OOPSLA 2024 (Alex was also the General Chair for SPLASH 2022 held in Auckland, New Zealand). Finally, Alex is a full member of Engineers Australia (and was a full member of Engineering New Zealand in the past). You can find more information and a full list of publications, former students, and courses taught at .


BSc(Hons), PhD, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


Can read, write, understand and peer review Russian and English


  • Collaborative projects
  • Join a web conference as a panellist or speaker
  • Masters Research or PhD student supervision
  • Media enquiries
  • Membership of an advisory committee
  • Mentoring (long-term)

Research Interests

Computer System Security, Programming Languages, Software Engineering

Projects for Potential Students

  • While my main interest is cyber security-oriented programming languages, with our capability enabled secure web language called Wyvern developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University being my primary project, anything fun to do with programming languages might work.
  • I am always looking for graduate students. Feel free to email me or drop by my office to discuss your options.


Please click here to see a list of my publications.


Please click here for a list of my current and previous students.


Please click here for a list of my current and past courses.

Conference Committees

Please click here for a list of my current and past conference committee memberships.

You are on Aboriginal land.

The Australian National University acknowledges, celebrates and pays our respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people of the Canberra region and to all First Nations Australians on whose traditional lands we meet and work, and whose cultures are among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

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