Prof. Doris Carver Is On a Mission to Make Software Better

LSU professor Doris Carver is leveraging three decades of distinguished experience in the field of computer science to make the world’s critical software easier to troubleshoot and more reliable.

Carver, a Dow Distinguished Professor in LSU’s Department of Computer Science, is leading crucial research in software engineering, a type of engineering that applies mathematical, scientific, and technological knowledge to developing computer programs.

“We’ve all had experiences with software that doesn’t work properly. Sometimes those errors are simply a nuisance, but sometimes they are life- and mission-critical,” she says. “Producing software that is more reliable is an important area — and an area of active research in the field of software engineering.”

A STRONG BACKGROUND IN MATH

Carver’s journey to becoming a software engineering leader began in the late 1970s at Texas A&M University, where she arrived after completing a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Tennessee. Although she initially intended to continue her studies in math, Carver took a computer science course and was immediately fascinated by the field.

“That was back when it was just becoming an established discipline,” she says. “I liked it, so I just kind of started pursuing it. There is a natural connection from mathematics into computer science, although they are certainly different fields.”

She completed her Ph.D. in computer science in 1981 and arrived at LSU in 1986 after a stint leading the Department of Computer Science at Southeastern Louisiana University. Here in Baton Rouge, she has carved out a space as one of the leading voices in the field of software engineering.

A RELENTLESS FOCUS ON IMPROVING SOFTWARE

Carver is the director of LSU’s Software Engineering Laboratory, which aims to enhance the productivity of student software developers by providing them with methods and tools to support their daily work. Carver explains that the lab “gives students a place where we meet as a group, talk about our research, and collaborate.”

Much of her research focuses on developing new methods to identify errors in programs more efficiently. “Software is becoming an increasingly important part of our world today,” says Carver. “And the whole focus of software engineering is about developing methods to produce software that is more reliable. It’s all about trying to find as many errors as we possibly can before a product goes into actual use.”

Another research area of focus is the field of requirements traceability. In order to create software, the developer must know what the user wants, which is referred to as a “requirement”. Requirements engineering involves converting a plain-language document outlining user needs into a design, then into code, and then finally into an operational software.

Carver is active in the classroom as well, teaching a graduate-level software engineering course along with a research-driven course focused on technical papers and the latest developments in her field.

A POWERFUL TRACK RECORD AS AN INDUSTRY LEADER

Carver’s accomplishments at LSU and in the field of computer science are extensive. Carver has published dozens of technical papers and has secured funding from a wide range of public and private sources, including the National Science Foundation and NASA. She is also the recipient of both the LSU Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award and the LSU College of Basic Sciences Graduate Teaching Award.

Throughout the industry, she has held prominent leadership positions, including serving as president of the IEEE Computer Society in 1998 and as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002. At LSU, she has served as the Interim Vice Chancellor of Research and Economic Development, Interim Dean of the Graduate School, and as Associate Commissioner of Sponsored Programs Research and Development at the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Despite those accolades and positions of leadership, Carver says she continues to focus on her role as a professor and her research with students. She has graduated numerous Ph.D. students who are working successfully in academia and industry and continues to play a vital role for her department and students.