Margaret Burnett, Distinguished Professor of computer science, was awarded the 2020 iGIANT Champion Award for her outstanding research contributions to inclusive software design. iGIANT® (impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies) is a nonprofit corporation that promotes best practices for gender/sex-specific design elements.

“I am honored to be recognized for my work with iGIANT, but all of it was a team effort,” Burnett said.  “None of it would have been possible without the help of many other volunteers, including Larissa Letaw and Jillian Emard here at OSU, working together to help iGIANT’s mission of inclusiveness and equitable experiences for all genders.”

Over the last decade, much of Burnett’s research has focused on gender inclusiveness in software. Her internationally recognized work in this area with students and collaborators has shown gender differences in ways people problem solve with software.

Burnett developed a method called GenderMag with her collaborators that enables IT professionals to identify and eliminate gender biases in the software. She and Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, lead the research team that is helping academic and industry partners develop inclusive design for software and websites. Their work was featured in the story, “Oregon State leads fight against gender bias in software,” published by Oregon State’s news and research communications office.

David Piorkowski
David Piorkowski

Graduate student David Piorkowski received an IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award in March 2015. The fellowship is an intensely competitive worldwide program, which honors exceptional Ph.D. students who have an interest in solving problems that are important to IBM and fundamental to innovation in many academic disciplines and areas of study.

Piorkowski’s research is in the area of software engineering, and aims to create better tools to help software developers debug code.

Margaret Burnett, professor of computer science, and Piorkowski’s Ph.D. advisor said, “David is a rising star. His research stands to fundamentally impact software engineering, and this award recognizes its importance. The computer science research community’s recognition of its importance also shows in David’s academic successes along the way.

“In the five years past his B.S., David won four research internships, and published six ACM/IEEE papers with more in the pipeline. His papers are significant, building a foundation for practical support of software developers’ information seeking. He also “gives back,” mentoring younger graduate students, undergraduates, and even highschoolers.  I am extremely proud of his achievements.”

Description of his Ph.D. dissertation from his award nomination:

“Information foraging theory (IFT) has explained and predicted how people seek information, but IFT does not explicitly account for how people forage when simultaneously “fixing” information in the environment. This gap may limit IFT’s applicability to programming.

Informed by prior research in IFT and Minimalist Learning Theory, my research investigates how programmers forage differently when debugging (fixing) versus understanding (learning) code — via empirical studies and constructing computational models — and how software tools can capitalize upon these differences. The results will contribute new, evidence-based theoretical foundations for understanding software developers’ information seeking behaviors, and how tools can support them.”