Lab in focus: CEC graduate students publish in software engineering conferences

The CEC is very focused on making sure students have the opportunity to participate in research and the possibility to have their work published. Many recent successes have involved graduate students and their work.

One research group had their work highlighted in the virtual event "SuMo: A Supportive Modeling Language Environment for Guided Model Transformations", 3rd International Workshop on Modelling Language Engineering (MLE 2021), in October of 2021.

These presenters were grad student Nick DiGennaro, along with Matthew Stephan, and Eric J. Rapos. Nick was the main student responsible for pulling together this research. Eric and Matthew discussed ideas for Nick’s thesis project with him, and gave him some advice, but the entire implementation and experimentation was conducted by Nick as part of his thesis.

Following the successful defense, they discussed the potential to submit it for publication; while it was initially rejected from the main conference, they revised based on the reviewer's suggestions, and submitted to this associated workshop where it was accepted.

Without Nick's work, this project would not have been possible. He did most of the initial writing of the paper, then they worked together on iterative improvements, both before and after the original submission; most of which was after Nick completed his thesis and graduated. Nick's dedication to this project has continued long after his defense.

Another research project, led by graduate student Bhisma Adhikari, who also worked with Eric J. Rapos and Matthew Stephan, was presented at the virtual "Simulink Model Transformation for Backwards Version Compatibility", The 15th International Workshop on Models and Evolution (ME) 2021, in October of 2021.

Bhisma started this project as his course project for a CSE 690 course he took with Dr. Rapos in his first semester at Miami University. Eric had an idea that would support ongoing research by both their team, and also other researchers with tooling for Simulink models, but didn't have the time to undertake the project himself.

As part of Bhisma's CSE 690 experience, he developed the skills necessary to master a new language (in a new paradigm) that they originally thought would be a perfect solution to the problem. After mastering the skills, he undertook the project, only to realize the proposed solution just wouldn't work. Undeterred, Bhisma proposed his own solution, implemented it and completed the project during the semester.

Excited by the work, they began discussing what additional work it would take to publish the work and decided that primarily they needed to improve the evaluation beyond simple examples. Dr. Stephan and Dr. Rapos provided Bhisma with a large curated model set and he got to work on extending the experiments.

This work continued as a side project that was unrelated to Bhisma's thesis, so it took a little longer to come to fruition, but Bhisma was always willing and able to dedicate time to continue working with Eric on this project long after completing his CSE 690 course.

This publication was an example of persistence and finding the right venue to be successful. Their first attempt was publishing in a journal, which ended up not being the right fit, but due to the long review process, it was held up for some time, causing them to miss the deadlines for conferences and workshops that would have been a good fit. They eventually submitted to this workshop the following year, and it was well received. This work was made entirely possible through the hard work and dedication of Bhisma.

Another graduate student, Kaylnn Borror, again along with Eric J. Rapos, presented at the virtual "MOLEGA: Modeling Language for Educational Card Games", The 18th Workshop on Domain-Specific Modeling (DSM21), in October of 2021.

Kaylynn began working on this project last summer (2020) as part of her thesis. The project always interested her, but the educational focus was something she needed to be able to overcome and frame as technical research, both for her thesis and if she and Rapos wanted to publish it in a model-driven software engineering venue.

Throughout her work, they frequently discussed how to make this happen, and eventually she and Dr. Rapos decided to focus on the framework and code generation aspects, with the classroom setting purely as the application of the framework. With this new direction, Kaylynn finished a well-written thesis that required very little changes to be ready for submission to this workshop.

With a deadline just after her defense, the time worked out perfectly, and with some adjusted figures and some clarity to the writing, they were ready to submit. On the first attempt, the work was accepted for publication and presentation at the workshop. Kaylynn has continued to work on this project with Eric after graduating, including presenting the work at the workshop as well as extending their validation to include user studies for a special issue journal extension of their workshop paper. Kaylynn has gone above and beyond expectations with this project, and the publication is almost entirely due to her great work.

Miami’s CEC is very proud of it’s students and the work that they do. Dr. Eric Rapos, who has worked with many of these students, spoke about this research:

“Including students in research allows us to explore so many more opportunities and directions that we could handle on our own. In a quickly emerging discipline, having the chance to explore different branches of research enables us to be on the forefront of different lines of research, not all of which will be successful, but we stand a greater chance by including students in our explorations. Additionally, by including students in our research programs, we are able to leverage their technical skills to design, implement, and test solutions that faculty researchers may not be able to do on their own. Undergraduate and Graduate students are often much closer to the state-of-the-art and are able to take the ideas of researchers and make them reality in very effective ways. From the students' perspective, their involvement in our research allows them to make meaningful contributions to a larger project based on the skills they possess, but also are able to gain new skills in the process.”

He also spoke about the importance of that research being showcased and noticed, specifically through conferences and presentations of the work:

“Publishing in conferences and workshops within computer science and software engineering disciplines is extremely important. As a relatively young field, and one that is on the cutting edge of science and technology, advances are happening so quickly that the publication delay of the traditional journal could have negative impacts on the resulting work. Conference proceedings have much quicker turn around and publication than journals in our field, and come with the added bonus of being able to present and discuss the work with leading experts to help improve the next iterations and continuations. While some venues offer Journal-First tracks to present papers published in journals, the discussion opportunities often come too late. The typical publication cycle for researchers in our field is to publish early and in-progress work in conference settings to get the work out there and get valuable feedback to complete the projects; this completed work is often published in journals for longevity. The conference step is crucial to the success of our research. Because of this importance placed on early and quick publication through conferences, most steering/organizing committees for these venues continue to stress quality over quantity in accepting papers for publication, leading to many conferences with higher standards of quality than many journals in our field.”

Students in the CEC are always encouraged to follow the research they are passionate about, and speak with faculty who may be able to help them get the recognition they deserve for that work.

Written by Kayleigh Schauseil, CEC Reporter.