Ph.D. Dissertation Summary
June 2013 (perspective of a postdoc)
I try to answer the question, “What was your Ph.D. dissertation topic?” In short, I created five new tools to help people who write computer programs to extract insights from data.
In April 2012, I defended my Ph.D. dissertation, Software Tools to Facilitate Research Programming. Here I'll summarize what it was about.
(You can also read The Ph.D. Grind to learn how I came up with my dissertation topic and implemented the research that comprised it.)
So, what did I do for my Ph.D. dissertation?
I created five new tools to help people who write computer programs to extract insights from data.
Tens of millions of people in fields such as science, engineering, business, finance, public policy, and journalism write computer programs to extract insights from data. By some estimates, these people far outnumber professional software engineers, yet few researchers have investigated the unique kinds of problems they face while programming. My Ph.D. dissertation describes a few technical challenges that these people often encounter and presents five new tools to address those challenges.
My official thesis statement
“My thesis is that by understanding the unique challenges faced during research programming, it becomes possible to apply techniques from dynamic program analysis, mixed-initiative recommendation systems, and OS-level tracing to make research programmers more productive.”
Overview of tools that I built