Computer science professor wins Fulbright, NSF awards to support collaborative research project in Norway
David Binkley, Ph.D., professor of computer science at Loyola University Maryland, has received awards from the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program and National Science Foundation to support an international, collaborative research project on the evolution of software product families in safety critical systems.
Binkley will work on the project in Norway with fellow computer scientist Leon Moonen, Ph.D., at Simula Research Laboratory, where Moonen is a senior research scientist in the software engineering department. Binkley’s time abroad, covered by both awards, is May through July 2015.
Their project aims to identify synergies between Binkley’s research, which focuses on semantic-based software tools that deeply analyze the meaning of small programs to identify potential issues in the code, and Moonen’s research, which focuses on tools and techniques that support much larger programs known as software product families.
“There’s a lot of software in the world, more and more every day, and it’s often given really critical tasks,” said Binkley. “As programs grow larger and more complex, programming becomes undoable, and you need tool support, the help of another program that will make the process of coding an easier one.”
Binkley has studied semantic-based software tools for more than 25 years. Much of his work to date has involved tool support for smaller, open source programs that contain thousands or hundreds of thousands of lines of code. He and Moonen will explore whether tool support can be scaled up to work with programs of millions or even tens of millions of lines of code. These larger software product families comprise features that can be woven together to produce many different programs.
Organizations recognize the process improvement and innovation potential of strategically deployed software product families. But errors in the code grow more complex as multiple features interact.
When strategically deployed, software product families can be the source of flexibility, improvement, and innovation for companies. But undetected errors in the code could be a massive liability. Recent data breaches, including hackers exploiting the Heartbleed bug, were the result of software failures.
“Open up the paper and look for a story about the results of a software disaster. What’s the magnitude of those things?” said Binkley. “We could preemptively identify a bug that would have caused a catastrophe.”
Binkley has taught at Loyola since 1991. This is his first Fulbright.