software engineering researchers share their expertise to deliver excellence | Computing

After 16 years as a faculty member, Professor Darko Marinov can cite several reasons for the success of Illinois CS software engineering researchers.

Darko Marinov

No reason is more important, however, than the people around him in the offices and classrooms of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science.

Constant interaction, based on the desire to advance this area of ​​computing, has led to a high level of discovery and execution. It also provides the impetus to never slow down, never back down from new challenges, never stop seeking new perspectives.

Indications of excellence in software engineering

Sam Cheng, PhD student in computer science from Illinois
Sam cheng

Citing sympathetic faculty members whose accessibility and encouragement bolstered his research efforts, Sam Cheng, a CS doctoral student from Illinois, appreciated the award-winning research on reorganization of setup testing. ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award.

“This project was really worth all the effort,” Cheng said. “Because we have a unique advantage in terms of faculty and student resources – derived from an atmosphere of collaboration from leading researchers in software and systems engineering – I cannot imagine how this result could be achieved elsewhere. “

Other recent examples of software engineering excellence at Illinois CS include:

Wenyu wang
Wenyu wang

Distinguished Paper Award from Wenyu Wang at the Joint European Conference on Software Engineering of the ACM and Symposium on Foundations of Software Engineering. The authors also included Professors Tianyin Xu and Tao Xie.

Tao Xie
Tao Xie

Recent ACM SIGSOFT Awards: Tao Xie won the Distinguished Service Award in 2021; Lingming Zhang won the Early Career Researcher Award in 2021; August Shi won the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award in 2021.

Reyhaneh jabbarvand
Reyhaneh jabbarvand

New Google PhD Scholarship from Assistant Professor Reyhaneh Jabbarvand CS from Illinois, who lasted from 2018 to 2020 in programming technology and software engineering for his work on advancing Android energy testing. Currently, Jabbarvand’s research is focused on analyzing neural programs and testing the range of self-driving cars.

Darko Marinov
Darko Marinov

Time Test Award: Darko Marinov won two ACM SIGSOFT Impact Paper Awards (only one awarded per year, the only person with two such awards).

Sasa Misailovic
Sasa Misailovic

Illinois professor of computer science Sasa Misailovic received an honorable mention, the Test of Time award, at the Joint European Conference on Software Engineering of the ACM and Symposium on Foundations of Software Engineering (ESEC /ESF).

“Software engineering is the organization of teams to manage specific responsibilities for an associated project. How do you write code? How do we test the code? How do we deploy the code? Marinov said. “This combination of practical and intellectually stimulating work done here in a consistent manner proves academic relevance. Nothing helps this process more than having faculty members right next to me who serve as experts in related fields.

“Their willingness to share in a collaborative spirit drives our work forward. “

Currently, Marinov and five faculty colleagues make up the field of software engineering: Reyhaneh Jabbarvand, Sasa Misailovic, Tao Xie, Tianyin Xu, and Lingming Zhang.

Marinov said their progress often comes from collaboration, but for that to happen a number of interactions need to take place.

Take, for example, how Marinov, Xu, and Zhang each guided doctoral student Sam Cheng’s work to become the 2021 ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award winner.

From a kernel of ideas, Cheng worked with professors to write a research paper titled “Prioritizing Test Cases for Configuration Testing”. ACM SIGSOFT Award reviewers presented this solution as the world’s first solution that uses test case prioritization to reorganize configuration testing, thereby accelerating the detection of configuration errors.

Marinov has connected the right points

As the de facto coordinator of the entire effort – partly because he was Cheng’s co-advisor – Marinov helped not only with the technical components of the work, but also from an organizational standpoint. and structural.

“I ended up serving as a bridge between Sam and the professors involved,” Marinov said. “Maybe it’s because I’m a senior person on a project like this, but I was able to help put the pieces together to find the best way to fix the problem. But the students get the job done, so Sam became the one who wrote the scripts, conducted the experiments, and wrote the paper – though he relied on all of us to polish the paper.

The collaborative aspect of the project, while wonderful in providing a spark, can also be overwhelming.

Sam cheng
Sam cheng

Cheng, as a second-year doctoral student, had to consider the multiple perspectives of three highly accomplished faculty members. Marinov helped the student decipher the entrance, but, in the end, it was up to Cheng to decide which way to go.

“First of all, it’s a credit to Sam because he was willing to listen to the advice of the three of us,” Marinov said. “Of course, it is possible to hear conflicting opinions. So he had to make some decisions on his own, after taking each point of view into account to better understand it.

This collaborative process is nothing new for Marinov, who co-supervises six of his 12 doctoral students and five of his 10 graduate students.

The professor is always in a hurry to see students flourish under the tutelage of several helpful faculty members. From identifying a particular problem to creating a new solution, Cheng impressed every faculty member he met during this project.

“Amazing students are also what makes this department great; it’s not just the professors, it’s the students, ”Marinov said. “The faculty can do the theoretical work, but anything that’s applied – which involves building systems, programming, writing code or hardware – we rely on the students.

“The point is, they are strong, they have skills and they want to work with us.”

Xu’s vision captured the genesis of the project

A year ago, Cheng’s work as a doctoral student started with Xu’s big vision project known as the Continuous Setup Test.

Tianyin Xu
Tianyin Xu

Xu explained that the goal is to “develop new practical test techniques to help cloud and data center systems effectively detect faulty configuration changes before deployment to avoid production outages.”

The professor’s experience on this project dates back to his own days as a doctoral student and his experience in the industry.

Together, Cheng, Xu, other students and collaborators in Xu’s group began to ask questions about the practical issues of configuration testing in real deployments.

When they looked for outside perspectives on their progress, they turned to Marinov.

It couldn’t have been more natural for Xu to include Marinov, who is his mentor and someone he considers one of his closest friends. Countless midnight talks on research topics have inspired advancements that each attributes to the other.

“For this work, Darko repeatedly asked important questions, such as: what do we need to identify to deploy configuration testing in cloud and internet companies like Facebook and Google tomorrow? “said Xu.” A key issue is the efficiency of the tests, which Sam’s project attacked. “

Marinov’s outside perspective helped Xu and Cheng approach the problem in a different way and exemplified the spirit of collaboration among software engineering professors.

“For me, there is nothing more fun than exchanging ideas, sharing expertise and working with people I love to achieve greater results than me, alone I can never accomplish “Xu said. “There is no magic or secret sauce. It’s all about hard work, experience and luck.

By sharing the expertise, the next step of this project became clear.

“One effective approach to improve test efficiency is Test Case Prioritization (TCP), which is widely developed for traditional software testing,” said Xu. “However, there is no TCP technique available for configuration testing because this new technique breaks many assumptions of traditional TCP. Darko and I were thinking about designing new TCP techniques for configuration testing when, luckily, Lingming joined the department last semester.

“He’s an expert in TCP, and with him on board, we had a dream team for this project.”

The success of the collaboration leaves Zhang inspired

Zhang, meanwhile, got excited about the project – not only because of the technical component, but also because it represented his first collaborative job as an Illinois computer professor.

Lingming Zhang
Lingming Zhang

Although new to college, Zhang is no stranger to the group. While at the University of Texas at Dallas, he had previously worked with Marinov through a joint grant. Zhang even knew Xu 18 years ago, because they were both undergraduate classmates at Nanjing University.

“I was super excited to be working with this strong team,” said Zhang. “For the project, we saw a lot of potential to bridge the gap between software engineering and systems research. During the process, Professor Xu’s in-depth knowledge of the problem area, Professor Marinov’s unique vision for bridging the gap between the two areas and, of course, Sam’s hard work became essential to the success of the project.

In his role as coordinator, Marinov considered the expertise that each Zhang and Xu brought to this project as essential to its development.

The fact that all three could collaborate from the same institution meant that progress could occur quickly.

“Lingming provided more of a solution domain and solution expertise,” Marinov said. “His work on test prioritization centers on the idea that reorganizing and prioritizing your tests differently will help find a bug faster. This knowledge is essential to the process, because if you have a bug and your test doesn’t find it immediately, you can spend hours or days trying to find that bug.

“If you find it early, however, the solution can take place in seconds or minutes.”

The result became something Zhang felt proud of in the short term, but also excited about future possibilities.

“I am very happy to see this wonderful result and would say it is definitely the joint effort of our team,” said Zhang. “This is my very first joint project with my new colleagues from Illinois, and it means a lot to me and my group. I’m already looking forward to starting more collaborative work with Tianyin, Darko, Sam, and other colleagues and students from Illinois.


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Gordon K. Morehouse