Kaj Dreef

Ph.D. Software Engineering

Why did you choose UC Irvine for your Ph.D. studies?

While working on my master’s at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, I wanted a different experience for my master’s thesis. I ended up here in Southern California, working with Informatics Professor Jim Jones for a year as a junior specialist. After that, he and some of his Ph.D. students encouraged me to apply for a Ph.D. position. I enjoyed doing the research, so why not continue? I didn’t even apply anywhere else.

What has been your favorite class so far?

David Redmiles’ Software Engineering (IN4MATX 211) course was fun because it is very research-focused. During the quarter, you discuss different areas of research within software engineering, but you also work on your own research project. For me, this was a good chance to explore a new-to-me body of research — reverse debugging.

Can you tell us about your research?

Working with Jim, we’re focused on seeing if it’s possible to automatically discover phases within a software program. So during execution, we log everything that happens, and then we take this big file and cut it up into pieces, saying “this part of the trace was opening the file, this part was saving the file,” and so on. We want to see if this is possible and if it would be useful to others for program comprehension.

What has been the best part of your experience so far?

Well, beyond living here and having much better weather than in the Netherlands, I’d say I like having the freedom to explore what I’m interested in and do related research. It’s a privilege to work with an advisor who shares your interests. I chose well with Jim, because I’m really interested in software testing and program debugging, which fits well with his work.

What has been the most unexpected part of your experience?

This is more general to Southern California but dealing with the traffic. We have traffic in the Netherlands, but not like this. The 405 is just a big parking lot!

What are your aspirations for the future?

I’m still trying to figure it out. On the one hand, I like research and I’m really enjoying teaching this quarter. I’m a TA for Software Design I (INF4MATX 121), and it’s a lot of fun. I like interacting with students, so going into academia would make sense. On the other hand, I love to build things people can use. I’d be happy with either one!

Any advice for prospective graduate students interested in the program?

Look into the interests of all the professors. Go read the last five papers of everyone in the department to see what you like and don’t like. Talk to the people doing research that interests you. That is what my advisor told me to do when I was looking for a topic for my master’s thesis, and it was very useful advice. When I read Jim’s stuff, I knew I wanted to work with him. I would be surprised if you read through all the works of the Informatics professors and didn’t find something you like.

“I like having the freedom to explore what I’m interested in and do related research.”