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Changing the world of software development

April 28, 2020

Gift from eBay supports new research into AI and Intelligent Software Engineering at UM-Dearborn

UM-Dearborn is excited to announce a gift of $110,000 from eBay in support of artificial intelligence research in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The Intelligent Software Engineering (ISE) Lab, run by Prof. Marouane Kessentini, will receive $100,000. The additional $10,000 will go to support his Dearborn Artificial Intelligence Research (DAIR) Center, which aims to be a hub for promoting large-scale research, in collaboration with AI academics, practitioners, and business leaders. This is the first significant gift from eBay to the University of Michigan system.

The gift is part of eBay’s growing efforts to support excellence in academia, and was driven by alumnus Hanzhang Wang (’18 Ph.D.), a former student of Kessentini’s, and current applied researcher and research program manager at eBay.

“I know Prof. Kessentini and our lab mates are super intellectual and hardworking, and our executives are also very interested in their field of research,” Wang said, who is leading research projects at eBay on AIOPs and Software Engineering Intelligence. He added that eBay invited Prof. Kessentini to give two tech-talks and that their engineers and leaders are very interested in his work.

Kessentini is excited about the work this gift will make possible. “It is always great to get support from industry about the impact of our research on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Software Engineering,” he said. “The ability to test our research at the very large scale is impossible without collaborations with industry. eBay has one of the largest and most scalable software architecture in the world with trillions of web services transactions/calls per day. We will be able, via these gifts, to get the right feedback from eBay to define our future research agenda.”

He plans to use the funds to continue developing prototypes around AI that can build a software. According to a survey in the prestigious journal Information and Software Technology*, the UM-Dearborn ISE Lab is recognized as a leader in building intelligent code bots that can generate code for programmers to fix quality issues, domain-specific chat bots to answer the questions of programmers about the code and bots that can do the code reviews automatically.

“We were the first to build a bot that can generate code as a pull-request to fix issues and many of these pull-requests were adopted by developers of large open source projects,” he said. “We are now working on the transition of these bots to industry to change the world of software development by building bots that behave like teams members in a software engineering team.”

“With these gifts, our students will be able to test these bots at the very large scale,” he said, adding, this will also help the DAIR center to develop a new thrust area on AI Engineering and will support its annual summit, to be held in November.

“We are grateful to eBay for this show of confidence in our research,” he said. “These gifts give us the energy and enthusiasm to continue our work.”

* Mariani, Thainá, and Silvia Regina Vergilio. "A systematic review on search-based refactoring." Information and Software Technology 83 (2017): 14-34.

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