Corina Pasareanu receives ETAPS’ Test of Time Award

Daniel Tkacik

Mar 31, 2021

Corina Pasareanu

Source: Corina Pasareanu

Pasareanu presents at the 27th International Conference on Computer Aided Verification in San Francisco, California in July 2015.

Corina Pasareanu, a researcher in CyLab, has received a Test of Time Award from the European Joint Conferences on Theory and Practice of Software (ETAPS) for a paper she co-authored and presented at the 2003 Conference on Tools and Algorithms for the Construction and Analysis of Systems. Her paper, “Generalized Symbolic Execution for Model Checking and Testing,” has been highly influential in the area of software verification for the past 18 years.

This is the fourth retrospective research award that Pasareanu has received, after receiving the Retrospective Impact Award from the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis, the Automated Software Engineering Most Influential Paper Award, and the European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering Test of Time Award, all in 2018.

“Our paper provided a solution to a particularly hard problem,” Pasareanu says. “It provided a unified way to analyze programs written with modern programming languages. Such programs manipulate complex data structures—such as lists and trees—and contain concurrency.”

Our paper provided a solution to a particularly hard problem.

Corina Pasareanu, researcher, CyLab

Pasareanu co-authored the paper with Sarfraz Khurshid, an MIT researcher at that time, and Willem Visser, a NASA researcher at that time. The paper combined and extended two program analysis techniques—symbolic execution and model checking—to analyze and generate test cases for concurrent programs that manipulate complex data structures. 

“When you have a concurrent system, you have several programs running concurrently,” Pasareanu says. “So, it’s extremely hard to analyze all of the possible test cases. The problem is even harder when the inputs are complex, recursive structures, because it is not possible to easily enumerate all of them.”

Program analysis and bug-finding is a serious task, Pasareanu says. Even subtle bugs can have big consequences.

“If you have a program that controls the wing of an airplane, you better make sure you’ve tested all of the possible test cases for that program,” she says. “Our paper was among the first to try to handle so many of the challenges one encounters in program analysis.” 

The ETAPS Test of Time Award was first instituted in 2017, and it recognizes outstanding papers published more than 10 years in the past in one of the constituent conferences of ETAPS. The winners of ETAPS Test of Time Award receive a recognition plaque and a cash award of 1000€, which is shared among the authors.

ETAPS is a confederation of several conferences, each with its own program and steering committee. ETAPS is the most important and visible annual European event related to software sciences. Altogether, more than 500 researchers participate in the event each year.