Three 2021 ACM SIGSOFT Award Winners with Ties to Illinois CS

4/19/2021 Aaron Seidlitz, Illinois CS

Winners include professor Lingming Zhang, Early Career Research Award; Professor Tao Xie, Distinguished Service Award; and PhD graduate August Shi, Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Written by Aaron Seidlitz, Illinois CS

Three people either currently or recently associated with Illinois CS earned 2021 ACM SIGSOFT awards.

SIGSOFT serves as a forum for computing professionals from industry, government and academia to examine principles, practices and new research results in software engineering within the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Congratulations to the following members, who earned recognition for their contributions to research efforts in the field as well as dedication to the group.

Lingming Zhang, 2021 Early Career Research Award

In his first year with Illinois CS, professor Lingming Zhang continued to focus his research effort on the synergy between software engineering and machine learning, programming languages and formal methods. ACM SIGSOFT named him the Early Career Research award winner this year for his “outstanding contributions to mutation testing, regression testing, fault localization and program repair.”

Lingming Zhang
Lingming Zhang

Zhang called it an honor to receive this award from SIGSOFT, as it confirms the track he set for himself as a personal goal. Zhang wants to help “developers and users all over the world to automatically eliminate all possible software bugs.”

His impactful research in this area includes work on automated program repair, achieving 10X to over 100X speedup compared with state-of-the-art repair techniques; developing runtime optimization techniques that speed up all existing source-code level program repair techniques; and Unified Debugging, a program that not only performs automated repair when possible but also boosts fault localization to better assist manual repair of hard-to-fix bugs.

Zhang’s research not only challenges the conventional notion and advances the state-of-the-art in all the above directions (e.g., detecting hundreds of previously unknown bugs from real-world software systems, achieving over 10X speedup over multiple bug detection, localization and fixing techniques), but also produces robust tools/datasets for real-world impact. Zhang’s group has released various practical testing and debugging systems to the Maven Central to support open-source developers; Zhang’s work has also already been deployed in various companies, e.g., speeding up the Google Assistant integration testing time by 2X, and enabling general-purpose automated program repair for JVM-based systems in production with millions of lines of code for the first time (deployed in Alibaba).

“This award was made possible because of the hard work of all my excellent students and collaborators,” Zhang said. “This is not only a recognition for our past work in the software engineering area, but also an encouragement for our future research. I can’t wait to further my collaborative work with colleagues here at Illinois CS, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and we can engage more consistently.”

Tao Xie, 2021 Distinguished Service Award

This annual award honors individuals who have contributed “dedicated and important service to the software engineering community.”

Professor Tao Xie
Tao Xie

Tao Xie was named the Distinguished Service Award winner based on experience with the forum that indeed proves a long lasting and dedicated effort. For example, among his experience with ACM, he has served as:

  • ACM SIGSOFT History Liaison and member of the Extended Executive Committee since 2009
  • ACM History Committee member from 2010-2019
  • ACM History SGB Liaison from 2012-2019
  • SIGSOFT Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award co-chair (2012) and chair (2013)
  • ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis (ISSTA 2015) Program Chair
  • IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2021) Program Co-Chair
  • ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (Tapia 2018/2017) General/Program Chair

Xie also initiated the SIGSOFT Early Career Researcher Award, served on the editorial board of the Communications of the ACM, and currently serves as a mentor for the new Diversity and Inclusion Initiative started by SIGSOFT.

Xie credited an important mentor for his own dedication to SIGSOFT.

“The reason I’m so dedicated to professional services for the software engineering research community – as well as the effort to broaden participation in computing – is because of my PhD advisor, the late David Notkin,” Xie said. “He was an internationally recognized leader in software engineering and broadening participation in computing. A prior winner of the SIGSOFT Distinguished Service Award, he was also a founding member of National Center for Women & Information Technology.”

August Shi, 2021 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

Illinois CS graduate August Shi (PhD ’20) earned this award for his dissertation entitled “Improving Regression Testing Efficiency and Reliability via Test-Suite Transformations.”

August Shi
August Shi

Dating back to the beginning of this research effort, Shi credited everyone in his group – and especially his advisor Darko Marinov – with greeting his ideas enthusiastically. This led him to striving toward both improved software quality and improved productivity for the developers implementing the software.

The Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award winner is invited to publish a dissertation summary in the SIGSOFT newsletter, Software Engineering Notes (SEN).

Shi’s work in this thesis proposes three lines of work that address two major primary challenges found in regression testing. This is important, as Shi’s abstract explains, because regression testing is becoming even more important as “software becomes more important and ubiquitous.”

His work results in test-suite transformations that make them more efficient or more reliable.

“What I feel most proud about with my thesis is that it tries to question established aspects of software testing research that do not hold today from a practical perspective,” said Shi, now professor with Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. “The work I did in my dissertation still only scratches a bit of all the exciting problems in this area of regression testing. Hearing that the community also finds the topic and the work done so far in the area worthy of this award is indeed very encouraging.”

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This story was published April 19, 2021.