April 30, 2009
Waikato computer science graduate aims to make life easier (and safer) for us all
Waikato computer science graduand Gian Perrone has his sights set on making all our lives easier. He’s interested in developing mathematical proofs to guarantee the software that drives everything from mobile phones to jumbo jets.
“It’s strange how we tolerate huge amounts of software failure,” says Perrone, who graduates from the University of Waikato on May 4. “If anything else in our lives failed as much as software does, we wouldn’t stand for it. I’m interested in giving software engineers the same tools and techniques as say civil engineers use for building bridges.”
Perrone, who came to university aged 16 from Hillcrest High School, has spent the last year concentrating on research under the supervision of Dr David Streader, a senior research fellow at Waikato University’s internationally recognised formal methods research group.
Perrone is currently eyeing up PhD opportunities in Europe and the United States to continue his work on formal methods, a relatively young field in computer science which aims to develop mathematical proofs and formulae for guaranteeing software.
“There’s lots of work being done on developing mathematical proof techniques and engineering techniques, but there are huge advances still to be made,” he says.
“One interesting area is ubiquitous computing – the computers all around us that we don’t always see, such as cellphones, eftpos machines, smart cards. We just don’t yet have a good handle on how to manage the complexity of the way all these things interact – and we need to develop tools and techniques to do that.”
Perrone has combined his university studies with part-time work programming for a local IT company, and has already completed a full masters research thesis – which will count as his honours project. “That project was basically about improving software quality by automating error detection.”
He says computer science students shouldn’t be put off by the maths involved in formal methods. “It’s a bit like learning to write a foreign language after you’ve learned to speak it,” he says. “I was never particularly good at maths at school, but as I developed an understanding of the concepts, the mathematical notation became easier.”