Lin Tan

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

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

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.”