Ping Chen

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I am currently doing research with Dr. André van der Hoek in the area of Software Engineering. Specifically we are doing research on the management of the evolution of Software Architectures. A Software Architecture is similar to an architecture for a building, but as applied to a software application. In particular, it describes the high-level components and their interconnections that make up the application configuration. Unlike buildings, whose architecture generally are fixed, software architectures change since most (large) software applications will change over time as new features are added. The goal of our research is to develop tools to help manage the changes that occur to a software architecture.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first got involved with research about 2 years ago (at the end of my sophomore year). I was taking a Software Engineering course with Dr. van der Hoek, and he proposed that anyone who is able to score high in his class could do research with him. I found the course very interesting and did very well so I contacted him afterwards to ask for any available research positions. Luckily, he had an open project for me to pursue.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

Research has given me the opportunity to learn about Software Engineering at a great depth that is not achievable by taking any undergraduate course. It has also given me the opportunity to learn about new tools and techniques that are being researched in Software Engineering.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

I think my favorite experience would be when I basically killed my own research project. One day, I noticed a particular problem with our approach to merging a software architecture description with a list of elements to add/remove at run-time. After some discussion, we realized that our initial approach was not feasible and we had to come up with a new approach. Although this did kill my research project, it was also a very important discovery. I suppose this is part of what research is about, discover what you can and cannot do. I did, however, get moved to a new project and currently I am still doing research with Dr. van der Hoek.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

Currently I am planning to attend graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. degree in computer science. After graduate school, I am still planning to do work related to Software Architectures either in industry or continue research as a professor. Doing research as an undergraduate allowed me to discover what my interests are and what I want to do. It has also prepared me for graduate school by giving me a taste of what doing independent research is like.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

First, you need to find a field that he/she is interested in, and take a course in that particular field. You should talk to the professor regularly, either in class, via e-mail or during office hours. I think the most important thing is communication; the student must express interest in that particular field.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '02 Ping Chen
Nov. '02 Sanjay Naran
Oct. '02 Alana Shilling
Sep. '02 Michael Vongphoe
Aug. '02 Ryan Wright
Jul. '02 Adrian Fernandez
Jun. '02 Allen Andres
May '02 Elizabeth Tsai
Apr. '02 David Bear
Mar. '02 Lorrel Brown
Feb. '02 Jiri Herrmann
Jan. '02 Kathi Hamor
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