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Lori Clarke selected for ACM SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award

Sun July 15, 2012

Professor Lori Clarke accepted the 2012 Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (ACM SIGSOFT) Outstanding Research Award in recognition of her “significant and lasting software engineering research in the areas of software testing, software development environments and program analysis.” This lifetime achievement award was announced during the 34th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) held in Zurich, Switzerland in June.

The award, the highest award for research contributions in software engineering, is presented annually to “an individual or individuals who have made significant and lasting research contributions to the theory or practice of software engineering.”

Clarke was one of the primary developers of symbolic execution, a technique used to reason about the behavior of software systems and to generate test data. She made contributions in the areas of software architecture and object management.

From her 1975 doctoral work in symbolic execution that led to an explosion of interest in the topic in the early 2000s, to her current work on detecting errors, inefficiencies, and vulnerabilities in medical processes, Clarke has made important and lasting contributions that span many areas of software engineering, says Matthew Dwyer (Ph.D. ’95 and former advisee of Clarke’s), Henson Professor of Software Engineering at the University of Nebraska.

One such example of the influence of Clarke’s research is her work on dependence analysis. She and her student, Andy Podgurski (Ph.D. ’89; now a professor at Case Western Reserve Univ.), were the first to formalize program dependences. In particular, they were the first to identify the distinction between weak and strong dependences which has turned out to be crucial in extending dependences to concurrent programs. “Her work on program dependences is highly cited and is considered a classic paper, and required reading, in software engineering,” notes Dwyer.

In a 2008 keynote address, Clarke outlined a broad and innovative program of research aimed at bringing the power of software engineering approaches to bear upon problems in the area of medical safety. “Her ideas are showing that her work on testing and analysis of software systems are equally applicable and effective in their application to complex human-intensive systems, such as medical systems,” says Dwyer.  

Clarke is the co-director of the Laboratory for Advanced Software Engineering Research. She is currently the chair of the department and a board member of the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W). She is a Fellow of the ACM and of the IEEE, as well as a former vice chair of the Computing Research Association (CRA) and co-chair of the CRA-W. She received a 2011 UMass Amherst Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity, a 2009 College Outstanding Faculty Service Award, a 2004 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from the University of Colorado, Boulder, the 2002 ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Service Award, a 1993 University Faculty Fellowship, and a 1991 UMass Amherst Chancellor’s Medal.

  More on the award.