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The structural engineer among computer scientists

Eleven questions addressed to Prof. Dr. Steffen Becker, who holds the Professorship of Software Engineering since October 2014

Prof. Dr. Steffen Becker (37) holds the Professorship of Software Engineering at the Faculty of Computer Science since October 2014. In eleven answers, he gives the readers of “University News“ an insight into his career, goals and time in Chemnitz.

What do we actually understand under Software Engineering?

Software Engineering tackles the challenge to develop complex software in large, sometimes global distributed teams in a timely, cost-efficient way and with high quality. The focus lies not only on the design, development and implementation, but particularly on the maintenance, as usually maintenance causes a substantial proportion of the costs.

TU Chemnitz is for me as a professor the right choice, because…

...it, being an university of technology, has a strong focus on engineering disciplines as Software Engineering is one. There is pioneering research in the field of Parallel and Distributed Systems at the Faculty of Computer Science, to which my research is complementary.

Could you say a few words about your academic career?

I studied Business Information Technology at TU Darmstadt. After graduation I then moved as a scientific assistant to the University of Oldenburg. From there the road led me to the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, due to a call to my supervisor Prof. Reussner. After two more years at the Research Center for Information Technology in Karlsruhe, where I have driven the technology transfer into industry, I switched to the University of Paderborn as assistance professor. There I received the offer from TU Chemnitz in summer 2014.

Describe your study time in no more than 15 words.

My study period was exciting, challenging, motivating and multisided – particularly my internship in South Africa.

Did you have role models during your studies who encouraged you to pursue a scientific career?

My professors for Software Engineering and Operations Research in Darmstadt have always inspired me. Likewise, our professor for Cryptography for whom I worked as a student tutor and who has sparked my interest in a career as a professor.

What advice would you give to young students and graduates?

As a software engineer, I teach that learning begins with one’s entry into the working life. Team-working on large projects cannot be learned in the university. The experience of working in a large team on a program that has millions of lines of code is unique and can be acquired only during professional life.

What would you like to achieve in teaching for the future?

I am trying to always equally combine theory and practical experience in my teaching. As a practical experience of a large project cannot be conveyed at the university, I always set myself anew the challenge, to describe preferably in a vivid and comprehensible way how such projects run in practice. Of course, for this purpose I must regularly gain insights into these projects, for example through industry partnerships.

Which impact do you make in the research at TU Chemnitz?

In my research it comes to an early analysis and evaluation of the quality characteristics of the created software. One can for instance imagine, similar to the work of a structural engineer who also calculates, whether a bridge or a skyscraper will sustain without being built for test purposes, only to realize that they fall over. A special challenge at present is that software is being used even more frequently and in more difficult predictable environments. Nowadays, these can be found again in almost all areas of daily life.

There are around 45.000 professors at German universities. What sets you apart from others?

In my opinion, the exciting mixture of theory and practical experience sets me apart. This combination, which is of a particular importance for my field of competence, allows me to tackle application-oriented topics in research and be able to show the vivid examples in teaching.

Which place do you show your guests the most in Chemnitz?

I have just moved to the city. So far, I like Kaßberg particularly well. The mass of old buildings with their unique architecture has its special charm. You might pick up some very beautiful impressions there, especially in the colourful light of the autumn sun.

How do you play a part in the life of the city?

Once I have settled properly and my group’s daily work is regular again , I will certainly try to provide my knowledge to the companies in the city and in the vicinity, and hope to gain in return exciting new research questions for software engineering. Then I will be able to tackle them.

Further information about professorship at: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/informatik/ST/index.php.en

(Translation: Nataliia Boiko)

Katharina Thehos
20.11.2014

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