Wayne State University

WSU researcher receives National Science Foundation CAREER award to develop tools to help programmers understand and manage large software systems

Increasing the speed and efficiency by which computer programmers manage large amounts of computer code is the goal of a Wayne State researcher and recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

The NSF CAREER Award is one of the highest honors granted by the NSF to young faculty members in the area of science and engineering and is intended to support their career-development activities. The $400,000 grant was awarded to Andrian Marcus, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and resident of Troy, Mich. Marcus will use the award to develop tools and methodologies that could improve programmers’ ability to understand, navigate and manage large amounts of code while performing maintenance and update tasks.

“We want to develop techniques that will make the maintenance of many types of software systems faster, less expensive and result in higher quality products,” Marcus said. “This could result in speedier improvements to many different kinds of software systems and growth for the software sector of the United States, which is already a $300-million+ industry.”

The tools and techniques Marcus hopes to develop are increasingly relevant to the needs of today’s software systems, which are larger and more complex than systems in use decades ago. “The software in a 2010 Lincoln Navigator has somewhere along the lines of a few million lines of code, which is comparable with the amount of code that a Boeing 747 Jet has,” Marcus said. “The reason for this is that the software on cars today is handling so many things, such as GPS systems, anti-theft programs, iPod software, driving and powertrain, etc.”

The tools that will result from Marcus’ research have potential applications in maintenance tasks for every kind of software system. “From the thermostat in your house to the cell phone in your pocket, software is an integral part of our lives today,” Marcus said. “This research could greatly improve our abilities to make the improvements that keep these complex systems running smoothly.”

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information on research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.