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National recognition for computer science researcher

A Queen’s University researcher has received a top national award in the field of computer science.

[Ahmed Hassan]
Ahmed Hassan (Computing) recently received the Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Prize for 2014  from the Canadian Association of Computer Science. (University Communications)

Ahmed Hassan (Computing) is one of three recipients of the Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Prize for 2014 from the Canadian Association of Computer Science.

Dr. Hassan, the Canada Research Chair in Software Analytics and the NSERC/BlackBerry Industrial Research Chair in Software Engineering for Ultra Large Scale systems, leads the Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab (SAIL) at Queen’s.

The award recognizes that Dr. Hassan is a world leader in the area of Mining Software Repositories (MSR), an area of research that he helped found more than 10 years ago, as well as a leader in the area of Ultra Large Scale Software (ULSS) systems which refer to systems that are utilized by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and wire­less networks.

“It’s nice to be recognized and it gives us confidence in what we’re doing, “he says. “That we’re on the right track and it gives us a push on what to follow up next.”

One of the highest cited software engineering researchers in Canada, Dr. Hassan has claimed a number of best paper awards and has secured a significant amount of funding at SAIL. However, he says, this is the first award recognizing the body of work at the lab.

Software analytics looks into the data being created by software developers with the aim of predicting and improving development, maintenance, and management of complex software systems.

“Whenever you buy something from Amazon, Amazon proposes other products to buy based on prior purchases. Well, imagine taking this basic idea and applying it throughout software development and operations,” Dr. Hassan explains. “Whenever developers change a piece of code, we can propose what other changes they need to do. Whenever an app crashes, we can automatically propose a fix by mining crashes and fixes of other apps. Whenever we are about to release, we can prioritize our testing by mining prior bugs.”

And while the award is definitely a big moment in his career, Dr. Hassan says that he is most proud of the number of SAIL researchers who have gone on to become faculty at universities internationally and across Canada.

“For me the thing I’m the most proud of is that over this time (SAIL has) produced nine people who are now faculty members around the world who are working in this area,” he says. “So I think the impact of the work is not just what’s happening at Queen’s but the impact of Queen’s across the world where there are currently nine faculty members – six of those in Canada – and that’s all in an area of research that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.”