Objectively Measure Developers’ Cognitive Activities: Code, Biases, and Brains
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President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Candidate
Abstract: Understanding how developers carry out computer science activities can help to improve software engineering productivity and guide the use and development of supporting tools and environments. Previous studies have explored how programmers conduct computing activities, such as code comprehension, but they rely on traditional survey instruments, which may not be reliable in all contexts. Advances in medical imaging and eye-tracking have recently been applied to software engineering, supporting grounded and objective neurobiological and visual explorations of computing activities.
In this talk, I will present three of my studies spanning software engineering and cognitive science using multiple modalities (fMRI, fNIRS, and eye-tracking). First, I will introduce the examination of the relationship between data structure manipulations and spatial ability, as well as how we adapt medical imaging approaches to software engineering. Then, I will discuss the investigation of cognitive processes in higher level, more semantically-rich and industry-related activities including code writing and code review. My work is among the first that leverages various objective measures to provide a systematic solution for understanding user cognition in programming activities. This line of research involves novel approaches to objectively understand developers’ behaviors, and shows potential for broad impact in CS pedagogy, technology transfer, and broadening participation.
Bio: Yu Huang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan, advised by Prof. Westley Weimer. Her research expertise lies in the intersection of software engineering and human factors. Her work spans software, hardware, medical imaging, open source software, and mobile sensing, collaborating with researchers from Psychology and Neuroscience. She is particularly interested in understanding and improving software activities and developers’ behaviors. Yu Huang has received multiple grants to support both her research and her efforts to improve diversity in computer science. Her work has resulted in over 20 peer-reviewed publications including an ACM SIGSOFT distinguished paper award.