CRA Recognizes Harvey Mudd Students’ Exemplary Work

January 28, 2014

Harvey Mudd College seniors Jane Hoffswell, Miranda Parker and John Sarracino received honorable mentions in the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards 2013 competition.

 Sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, the contest recognized undergraduates who demonstrate exceptional potential in the computer science field. Honorable Mentions were awarded to nominees whose work was considered exemplary.

Jane Hoffswell ’14

Hoffswell received an Honorable Mention for helping to create a web-based visualizer that graphically displays the structure of a software program’s execution.

hoffswell-janeThe JSAI Visualizer helps computer science researchers to better understand the structural relationships in complex programs interpreted by JavaScript Abstract Interpreter. It shows places where precision is lost via the way in which values change over time, and allows researchers to inspect the graphical structure and code together to better connect their understanding of the results.

“When I began my research, I didn’t have an area of focus within computer science, but I soon became enthralled by visualization,” said Hoffswell. “It combines my scientific and creative interests into an interdisciplinary field that I can use to change the way in which computer science researchers engage with complex topics.”

Miranda Parker ’14

Parker investigated how college students learn and understand big-O analysis, a theoretical tool computer scientists use to estimate how fast their code will run. Parker developed her hypothesis, performed interviews, analyzed data and modeled how students learn the topic.

parker-miranda“The project gave me hands-on experience developing and investigating a research project from start to finish. Also, I presented a poster at Koli Calling, a computer science education conference held in Finland,” Parker said. “It was an amazing experience to represent Harvey Mudd on an international level and obtain feedback on my research project from respected figures in the field.”

John Sarracino ’14

Sarracino was recognized for his work on two projects involving static analysis of computer programs.

sarracino-johnFor the first project, he explored whether a technique called “type refinement” could improve the precision of static analyses for JavaScript without impacting performance. He wrote code that counted every instance where refinement would help to assess his proposed algorithm’s impact. Based upon positive results, he implemented the refinement logic in the analysis engine, which then produced more precise static analyses. For the second project, Sarracino developed syntax, semantics and an interpreter for a new computer language that performs static analysis on digital circuits.

“These projects let me apply knowledge I had acquired in various undergraduate mathematics and computer science courses,” Sarracino said. “The experience as a whole gave me some insight into how research is performed and positively influenced my decision to apply to graduate school.”