About Me


Debra J. Richardson is Professor of Informatics and founding dean of the University of California–Irvine's Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS).  She has been on the UCIrvine faculty since 1987.  Under her leadership as chair, the ICS department was promoted to the first and only computing-focused school in the University of California system in December 2002, after which she was named the Ted and Janice Smith Dean of the new school.  Dean Richardson set aggressive goals for herself and the school, with top priorities of building an infrastructure to support a dynamic research and educational environment that meets the demands of regional industry and community and contributes to the global economy, as well as ensuring that ICS is a top-tier, broad and interdisciplinary program attracting the best and brightest students and faculty.  Richardson was instrumental in securing a transformational $20 million endowment for the school, resulting in naming the school after philanthropist Donald Bren.  She served as dean through June 2010.

Dr. Richardson has always been committed to increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented minorities in information and computing technologies. She has served on the leadership team of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) since its inception; NCWIT’s overarching goal is parity in the professional IT workforce through education, dissemination, advocacy, and a national, multi-year implementation plan that generates tangible progress within 20 years. She leads the NCWIT hub at UCIrvine, a NCWIT PaceSetter focused on developing and evaluating best practices to increase the participation of women at the undergraduate level, and also throughout the academic pipeline.

Dr. Richardson has recently engaged with passion to improve K-12 computer science education.  Since 2005, she has chaired ACM’s Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Advisory Council; CSTA provides opportunities for K-12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and learn.  For the last two years, she has served as chair of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), a week endorsed by Congress in 2009 to recognize the transformative role of computing in society and the critical need to bolster computer science education at all levels. CSEdWeek is a collaborative activity of Computing in the Core, a non-partisan advocacy coalition of associations, corporations, scientific societies, and other non-profits, striving to elevate computer science to a core academic subject in K-12 education.  Dr. Richardson also chairs the California Computing Education Advocacy Network (CCEAN), a significant advocacy movement focused on reforming California education policies so that all California students have access to high-quality K-12 computer science education, especially those who have typically been disadvantaged and underrepresented in the field.

A leader in software engineering research, Richardson pioneered research in "specification-based testing", whereby formal specifications are employed to guide software testing, and has focused on enabling specification-based testing technology throughout the software lifecycle, from requirements and architecture analysis through operation and evolution.  She has recently expanded her research to adapting software engineering methods to socially relevant domains – in particular, the domain of ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies for Development), with a specific interest in developing new requirements engineering approaches for work with computationally-marginalized peoples, such as those in developing countries, and the domain of environmental sustainability, with a focus on treating sustainability as a first class quality attribute in requirements engineering.  Dr. Richardson has authored over 140 refereed book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers.

Dr. Richardson’s research was recognized by designation as a Fellow of Automated Software Engineering for significant and sustained contributions to the ASE Community through scientific accomplishments and service.  She has chaired many of the key research conferences in software engineering.  Dr. Richardson currently chairs the Computing Research Association (CRA) Deans Group, which was established to provide leadership and community to emerging and established schools and colleges of computing and interdisciplinary "IT" academic organizations.

Debra Richardson received her B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California–San Diego in 1976, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst in 1978 and 1981, respectively.  She did her graduate work with Professor Lori A. Clarke. After finishing her Ph.D., she stayed on at UMass–Amherst for six years before joining UCIrvine; she was a visiting assistant professor but was also starting lock (second row) for Beantown, the premier women’s rugby club in New England! 

Academic Biography

Debra Richardson


Years at UCI: 
over 25 ... YIKES!

3 labradors, mom&dad, 2 brothers, 2 nephews

Garden grove, ca

Specification-Based Testing

testing processes guided by the specification rather than the code ... testing what system should do rather than what it does

Requirements Engineering

new requirements analysis and specification techniques that focus on including all stakeholders, especially for specifying non-functional requirements

Socially Meaningful Domains

SE4ES: Software Engineering for Environmental Sustainability

RE@tM: Requirements Engineering at the Margins

Computer Science Education

Computing in the Core’s CSEdWeek: An advocacy campaign for CS Education
(2010 and 2011 Chair)

CCEAN: California Computing Education Advocacy Network (Chair)

CSTA: Computer Science Teachers Association (Advisory Council Chair)

Recruitment and Retention of Women & Underrepresented Minorities in Computing

NCWIT: National Center for Women and Information Technology
(Leadership Team)


A few of my favorite things!

I love to travel, but don’t have enough time to travel for pleasure as I travel a lot for business. I also like virtually all outdoor activities. I love rock climbing, which is absolutely the perfect physical and mental sport. I also especially enjoy scuba diving, stand-up paddle boarding and wind surfing, Pilates and yoga, weight lifting, biking and hiking, snow shoeing and snow boarding, cross country and downhill skiing, in-line skating, whitewater rafting ... although I can't say that I do all of these things on a regular basis!

I am a strong supporter and participant in women's sports. I consider myself the #1 fan for the UCI women’s basketball team; as Dean Debra I send them a pep message before every game and attend every home game.  I played rugby for ten years, primarily for the Beantown Rugby Club in Boston. I also coached the Valley Women's Rugby Club in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts for six years and after moving back to California coached the Belmont Shore Women's Rugby Club in Long Beach.

I am a long-time vegetarian (almost 30 years, for ethical and moral reasons) although more recently I started eating fish on occasion ... long story!

DOGS ARE THE NEW KIDS: I have three very sweet kids ... actually labradors. Zuleka, a ten year old female yellow American field lab is the biggest lover you'll ever meet; she likes to collect all the balls and frisbees thrown, robbing the other two (and any other dogs around) of their retrieval opportunities. Zacary, a nine year old male black American field lab was a challenge at first, chasing anything that moved faster than a turtle, but now is my loyal boy; interestingly, he still likes to chase yellow school buses. And Zenya, a beautiful chocolate female lab who I rescued from a high-kill shelter two years ago is now approximately five years old and another sweetie; she is extremely driven to chase her ball, but also paces in circles before letting you throw it again. They're all extremely active; whereas most labs have a tendency to get a bit fat, each of mine are if anything underweight but solid muscle. Zacary and Zenya are both training in agility.

Before that, my pack included three female labradors – Zinfandel, Zeta and Zoë – a triad of chocolate labs: white chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate.  Zin[fandel] was a yellow labrador, who passed away at just shy of 16 years old; I named her Zinfandel because both of her parents were chocolate labs, but she came out white (even a little pink) like white zinfandel comes from red grapes ... I used to say she is the only white zinfandel I like. Zeta was an extremely loyal black lab who passed away at just shy of 15 years; she did the cutest "sit pretty" you've ever seen from an 80-pound dog. And, Zoë was the sweetest chocolate lab (except for maybe Zenya) you'd ever want to meet; she was also a rescue ... she had such bad hip dysplasia at birth that they couldn't sell her and were going to put her down.  She had two major hip surgeries at six months of age and then lived a wonderful life to almost 14 years.


University of California–Irvine,
aka UCI or UCIrvine


Bren School of ICS