I’ve been involved in the USC Software Quality Lab for 3 years now, and it’s by far my favorite student involvement.  What is it? It’s the research group that is headed by my research advisor, Professor William G.J. Halfond, that focuses on issues of using software engineering to make software less buggy, more secure, and ultimately cheaper to develop and maintain.

The group is run a little like this: often times, research-focused professors have PhD students directly under them that they advise on their way to writing their thesis.  PhD students, for the purpose of their thesis, are very research oriented.  Then, in the case of my group and others like it at USC, research-minded undergraduate and graduates also come together to make a group with diverse projects that share a common research area- in our case, software engineering techniques.

We meet weekly to discuss what is going on each student’s research work and sometimes have special events such as guest speakers.  By listening to other student’s research works, I learn a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise- from automatic web crawling to estimating the energy profile of a line of Android app source code, I’ve learned a lot of things that aren’t being taught in class– because groups like mine are still researching them.  This last week, we had a guest speaker from Germany who is working on a way of testing a web application’s security by coming up with ways to hack it automatically — I love this stuff.

I’ve also been able to develop my research and critical thinking skills through those meetings.  A couple of weeks I’ve presented the papers’ of others to the group to cover a topic related to us, thus developing my presentation and public speaking skills.  And in this setting, the questions you get are very technical– I’ve learned to be quick on my feet with extremely complicated subjects like artificial intelligence. And of course, I have been developing my own paper through this group and have gotten feedback from students that have had papers accept by some of the most prestigious software engineering conferences in the world.

I cannot say enough about how fun a research environment is, and it is a great way to contribute to Viterbi and USC.  I definitely recommend looking into research once you get into college- it may not be a fit for everyone, but it sure was for me!

See you next week,