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Graduate Student Wins IBM PhD Scholarship

Joseph LawranceJoseph Lawrance, a PhD candidate in computer science at Oregon State University, has been selected to receive a prestigious IBM PhD Scholarship Award for the 2008-2009 academic year. The highly competitive fellowship recognizes Lawrance's academic excellence. In addition to the award, Lawrance is assigned a mentor from IBM and is given the opportunity to participate in an internship at the company. The award also includes an IBM ThinkPad.

Lawrance has published eight fully refereed papers (two journal and six papers at selective conferences), has a ninth submitted, and has participated both as a team member and as a leader in experiment design, in the programming required to prepare prototypes, in the statistical analysis of the data, in interpreting the results, and in writing and publishing the results.

Together with his advisor Margaret Burnett, he has been collaborating with IBM researchers for about two years. Four of his papers have been co- authored with IBM collaborators, and there are several more in the pipeline.

“Joey has been a wonderful student and will be a wonderful researcher in his future career,” said Burnett. “He has a wonderful attitude about learning, reads everything from economics to mathematics to psychology, and his curiosity and interests know no bounds.”

Lawrance’s research niche is where humans and programming practices meet. His dual background in computer science and psychology provide a strong background for his dissertation research, which is to investigate the relationship of information foraging theory on programmers’ behavior when performing debugging and maintenance. His results are beginning to show compellingly that his information foraging model can predict where programmers will need to navigate, using mathematical techniques that compute “scent” in bug reports and then propagate it along topological paths in code using spreading activation methods. This result promises to inform tools to save significant time in helping programmers track down bugs.


School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, 1148 Kelley Engineering Center
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-5501
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