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Waikato Professor Breaks New Ground

Media Release

Stephen Ward

Waikato Professor Breaks New Ground

Waikato University computer sciences department academic Steve Reeves has become New Zealand’s first university professor in the software engineering speciality known as formal methods (FM).

“This is the part of software engineering that builds formal, usually mathematical, abstract models of systems before they are actually implemented,” says Professor Reeves.

“We can then use a variety of tools to investigate whether the system actually works and is what the customer wants, and, most importantly, that it is correct, meets safety and security requirements and so on.

“The important thing is that the FM models mean this is done before the huge investment of time and cost is made in building the software itself. If software is actually built before error or ‘bugs’ are found it can result in expensive fixes or, at worst, a human disaster if safety issues are involved.”

Professor Reeves says Waikato has, since 1999, had the only specialist formal methods laboratory in the country. “Our FM research group has had significant success in obtaining research grants from government sources. We have important links with overseas labs, in the UK and France mainly, and so we are part of international work in this vital area. We have developed tools, which are freely available under the GNU public licence, to support model-building and model-investigation.”

The lab is also part of an international project, co-ordinated by a member of the lab, Dr Mark Utting, to allow the work of several labs from around the world to be integrated and so make further tool-building more effective.

“We are always on the look-out for excellent students to join us, especially at the post-graduate level, and so allow us to make further progress in this challenging and important area,” says Professor Reeves.

“We are also looking to find, especially local, NZ companies with whom we can work. By having our ideas and tools tried out under industrial conditions we find the impetus to make further progress with our research, but also we hope to aid NZ industry directly.”


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