Assuring Organic Programs: Software Engineering of the Future


Assuring Organic Programs: Software Engineering of the Future

Dr. Myra Cohen, Iowa State University

3:30 p.m.–4:45 p.m., October 14, 2021   |   102 DeBartolo Hall

Over the past few decades, the complexity of our software systems has grown exponentially. Our software is highly configurable, interconnected, and increasingly mobile. 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.

Dr. Myra Cohen
Dr. Myra Cohen

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, Dr. Myra Cohen of Iowa State University shows how software is becoming more biological and how living organisms mimic highly-configurable software.

She will present some of her group’s recent work along this spectrum from navigating configurability in software to predicting behavior in organisms, and modeling and testing biological programs. Dr. Cohen conjectures that these are all organic programs and that assuring their quality is the future of software engineering.

Dr. Myra Cohen is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University, and the Lanh & Oanh Nguyen Endowed Chair of Software Engineering. Dr. Cohen was previously a Susan J. Rosowski Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a member of Laboratory for Empirically-based Software Quality Research and Development, ESQuaReD. 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 received her Ph.D. from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and was the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and an AFOSR Young Investigator Award. Dr. Cohen has received four ACM distinguished paper awards. She is an ACM distinguished scientist.