'To say I'm excited is an understatement' - student's paper accepted at influential international conference

An undergraduate student is celebrating after the dissertation project he put everything into has been accepted as a paper at a prestigious international software testing conference.

Zalan Levai

Zalán Lévai, a final year MComp Computer Science undergraduate, was over the moon when he received the news that his paper has been accepted for publication at the 16th IEEE International Conference on Software Testing, Verification and Validation.

“To say I was incredibly excited would be an understatement!” said Zalán.

“We put everything that we could into the paper, but this is the first time I’ve ever been involved with anything like this. So I didn't really know what to expect.

“I thought we might tip-toe over the line of acceptance, but it ended up being quite the contrary. It was something of a resounding acceptance, which definitely added to the experience.

“We really shot for the stars going for that particular conference - and I’m very glad we did.”

Zalán’s paper, which was supervised by the Department’s Professor Phil McMinn, is titled ‘Batching Non-Conflicting Mutations for Efficient, Safe, Parallel Mutation Analysis in Rust’.

The paper builds on his dissertation and describes a step forward in a process known as ‘mutation testing’, which is a type of software testing designed to evaluate how effective and comprehensive a test suite is at detecting bugs in a piece of software.

Mutation testing involves making small modifications to a programme to create a ‘mutant’ version of the original. A test suite should then detect and reject or ‘kill’ these mutants to help make sure a piece of software does what it’s designed to do.

Taking this process a step further using a programming language called Rust, the paper describes a technique called ‘mutation batching’ which allows software testers to automatically analyse separate, unrelated mutations and faults simultaneously. This can make the process of mutation testing, which is time consuming and resource intensive, faster and more efficient. Ultimately this can lead to better testing suites and more reliable software.

For Zalán, who hopes to study a PhD in the Department, the process of problem solving and making new discoveries provides more than enough motivation.

“There's just so much you can do,” he said.

“You can pick your own problem and you try and tackle it the best you can. I feel like computer science is one of those fields, especially being so comparatively young, that it can be relatively easy to find something new, something that hasn't really been discovered or they haven't been able to put too much time and effort into researching.

“More generally there is such a lot to be excited about, especially considering how quickly the entire field of software engineering and computer science has, in a way, overtaken everything.

“It’s just accepted now as a part of everyone's lives and jobs. We've built so many of our processes based on these systems, yet there's still so much that’s undiscovered.”

Phil McMinn, Professor of Software Engineering at the Department of Computer Science, said: “This is a huge achievement and Zalán should be incredibly proud to have had his work recognised among the best and brightest in the world of software testing, verification and validation.

“His hard work and passion has really paid dividends and I’m sure his success will inspire many other students.”

Zalán’s paper will be published at the 16th IEEE International Conference on Software Testing, Verification and Validation (ICST) 2023 in Dublin, Ireland in April.

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