Informatics Seminar Series
Fall Quarter 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020

“Assuring Organic Programs: Software Engineering of the Future”

*ISR Distinguished Speaker Series

Myra Cohen
Professor and Lanh and Oanh Nguyen Chair in Software Engineering
Iowa State University

Over the past few decades the complexity of our software systems has grown exponentially. Our software is highly-configurable, interconnected and increasingly mobile. As such, software engineers have turned to nature and evolution for inspiration to help navigate this complexity and ensure software quality. We routinely utilize tools such as genetic algorithms to generate test suites or to refactor code. And these algorithms have become staples for automatically repairing code, for optimizing properties such as energy efficiency, or for transplanting functions from one program into another. At the same time the field of synthetic biology has emerged as a discipline where biological or chemical engineers use living organisms, or their DNA, as computing devices, and through engineering principles program them with new behavior. While these two fields remain distinct, there is an increasing overlap and there are many opportunities for cross-fertilization at their intersection. In this talk I show how our software is becoming more biological, and how living organisms mimic highly-configurable software. I then present some of our recent work along this spectrum from navigating configurability in bioinformatics software, to predicting behavior in organisms, and finally to modeling and assurance of synthetic engineered organisms. I end with the conjecture that these are all organic programs and that assuring their quality is the future of software engineering.

Myra Cohen is a Professor and the Lanh and Oanh Nguyen Chair in Software Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University. Prior to that she was a Susan J. Rosowski Professor at the Univeristy of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a member of the ESQuaReD software engineering research group. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Auckland , New Zealand , where she lectured in the Computer Science and Software Engineering programs. She received her M.S. from the University of Vermont where she also spent several years as a Lecturer in the Computer Science Department. She received her B.S. from the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Her research interests are in software testing of highly-configurable software, search based software engineering, applications of combinatorial designs, and synergies between systems and synthetic biology, and software engineering. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award, an AFOSR Young Invesigator Award and was a member of the DARPA Computer Science Study Group. She serves on many software engineering conference program committees and was the general chair of the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering (ASE) in 2015. She is the program co-chair for ICST 2019 and ESEC/FSE 2020. She is an ACM distinguished scientist.

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