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Researching the code for success

Google the words “program comments” and a paper written by Lin Tan appears first on the list of hits. It even beats out a “yourdictionary.com” definition.

Lin Tan profile

Her ranking is a testament to the new electrical and computer engineering professor’s expertise. Program comments are written in natural language and used by programmers to explain what they’re trying to accomplish. Tan’s research looks at finding ways to use those comments to detect software bugs and make software more reliable.

It’s not easy research, admits Tan who says comments are rife with messy language and poor grammar, making them difficult to analyze. But it’s important. According to experts, software bugs cost the U.S. $60 billion dollars annually and their effect on our economy is similar.

In one case, by using comments, she discovered bugs in the web browser Firefox’s code. She sent details to Firefox – and its developers used her data to fix the problems.

“There is a big potential in utilizing program comments,” she says. “They have lots of information that people can use.”

Highlights

  • Four ECE faculty members were named as new Canada Research Chairs at the 10-year celebration of the CRC program in November 2010. Raafat Mansour became the CRC in Micro and Nano Integrated RF Systems; Catherine Rosenberg, the CRC in the Future Internet; En-hui Yang, the CRC in Information Theory and Multimedia Data Compression; and Weihua Zhuang, the CRC in Wireless Communication Networks.
  • Faculty member and dean of engineering Adel Sedra was the recipient of the 2010 Information Technology Association of Canada Distinguished Service Award presented at the annual Information Technology Association of Canada/Canadian Microelectronics Corporation banquet held in October 2010 in Ottawa.

Powering the hunt for cleaner, smarter energy

As petroleum supplies shrink and climate change intensifies, the world urgently needs cleaner sources of energy, along with smarter ways to make the most of every watt and joule.

According to electrical and computer engineering professor Claudio Cañizares, the University of Waterloo has a big role to play in finding better ways to power our planet. And with Cañizares named as the first Hydro One Chair in Power Engineering this year, that role just became bigger.

Established as part of a $2.5 million agreement with Hydro One, the new chair supports research in smart grid power distribution and management, alternative energy and sustainability projects.

Cañizares’s status as an international expert in power systems made him an obvious choice for the position. He boasts more than 200 publication credits and prestigious IEEE recognitions. Meanwhile, the lab he co-directs with electrical engineering professor Kankar Bhattacharya bustles with over 25 graduate and undergraduate students, post docs and visiting fellows.

Now, thanks to the Hydro One Chair, he’ll be able to achieve even more. The seed funding and reduced teaching load that come with the role allow him to expand his research further, while his new title helps to open doors.

“A good part of my time is dedicated to starting projects,” Cañizares says. “It gives me opportunities to train more people, come up with new ideas and make them happen.”