Kristina Winbladh spotlight

Changing Course

photo:: kristina winbladh

Kristina Winbladh

Ph.D. student Kristina Winbladh had her heart set on becoming a biomedical researcher, until she discovered that computers were a lot more logical than organic cells.

One day during her first semester as a Chemical Engineering major, she was complaining to her parents about the large number of exceptions-to-the-rule in Organic Chemistry and they encouraged her to try something more "logical".

Her dad, who is a professor of artificial intelligence at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm Sweden, got her a Java book, which Winbladh worked through over Christmas break.

The experience inspired her to change her major to computer science.

“I realized that programming was a lot of fun and switched over to Computer Science,” Winbladh said. “I was fascinated by how I could describe my intentions in a programming language and that the computer would execute exactly what I described, this is not always the case in Biomedicine or Chemistry,” she said.

After receiving her B.S. in Computer Science from Cal State Long Beach in spring 2004, the Stockholm native chose UC Irvine to pursue her Ph.D. and a career in research.

Though Winbladh and her family talk a lot via Skype, a free Voip (voice over internet protocol) phone, at times it is tough for her to be so far from home.

“I miss them a lot, but I am fortunate that my parents are able to come and visit me quite frequently,” Winbladh said. “I also try to go home once or twice a year.”

REQUIREMENTS AND TESTING

“I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in research, but that the topic of the interest would be software engineering was not always clear,” Winbladh said. “I later became interested in Software Engineering because of the interesting and practical problems it presents.”

The opportunity to work with Bren School Dean Debra J. Richardson, who is a well-known and respected researcher in the field of Software Engineering and specification based testing, was a major selling point for Winbladh and one of the reasons she came to UC Irvine.

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“I think UCI and the Bren School offers a good research environment,” Winbladh said. “There are always professors and other students to talk to about your work, get feedback from, and to learn from. There are always interesting projects going on in a variety of different areas which makes these conversations even more interesting.”

One research project Winbladh is engaged in with Informatics professors Debra Richardson and Thomas Alspaugh, is working to exploit the natural symbiotic relation between requirements and testing -- driving the testing process based on requirements to demonstrate high quality software that meets requirements.

There are several benefits of testing against requirements.

First, early test design helps to build quality into the product by inhibiting defect multiplication by testing against a specification, which generates questions about that specification thereby challenging it.

If test design is considered early and against requirements, the requirements thus stand a better chance of getting validated before they cause misunderstandings that are costly later in the development process.

Second, generating tests from requirements as opposed to later specifications and models or code allows the generated test cases to be directly traced back to high-level requirements.

Requirements will be formulated in terms of goal models and scenarios so as to permit expression of user intent in a way that is mechanizable while being relatively easy to understand by a wide variety of stakeholders in the software development process.

“I intend to show how testing against requirements addresses many of the commonly recognized problems with creating quality software under acceptable budget and time constraints,” Winbladh said.

OUTSIDE THE LAB

Winbladh’s research has allowed her the opportunity to travel and present her work at a number of conferences.

“During my first year I had two research papers accepted; one at the ROSATEA workshop and one at ASE,” Winbladh said. “I also attended CRA-W, a conference for first- and second-year female graduate students in computer science, where we were coached by leading research professionals in both industry and academia. I also attended RE, ISSTA, and Grace Hopper during my first year.”

Life as a researcher can also be stressful, but even these pressure filled moments can be tinged with excitement.

“One of my most memorable experiences at UCI was my first paper submission, which came only one month after my arrival,” Winbladh said. “I remember the stress leading up to the submission, which took place ten minutes to deadline at 2:50 am. Once the file was submitted, I sat outside my apartment, inhaling the night air, and feeling a mix of excitement over my new journey as a researcher and relief that this one was over.”

But Winbladh’s life isn’t all work and no play, she finds time to kick back and relax, important things to do since graduation isn’t until 2010.

Living on campus in the Palo Verde graduate housing community affords Winbladh the opportunity to take part in campus activities and take advantage of the Anteater Recreation Center.

An avid outdoorswoman, Winbladh also finds time to take in a plethora of outdoor activities.

“One of the great things about living in California is the many outdoors activities it offers,” Winbladh said. “Since we are close to the mountains, I try to go skiing at least once in the winter, which is something I have enjoyed doing since I was about three years old. I also like camping and hiking when the weather is nice.”

- Eric Kowalik