with David Evans
by Jenny Gerow
David Evans, assistant professor of computer
science, works to keep a sense of fun in his classes, even
as his research tackles such serious challenges as code-breaking
and software dependability.
founded and directs the U.Va. RoboCup Team, which participates
in international competitions that use a soccer simulation exercise
to research group behavior. His students also enjoy the Jeopardy-style
games and team competitions he uses at the end of the semester
to review for exams.
is extremely innovative in using a multitude of techniques in
his classes, said John Stankovic, computer science department
chair. The students find this intriguing and challenging,
and everyone benefits. Dave is a good example of the commitment
to excellence our computer science faculty pursue in both teaching
received a joint bachelors and masters degree from
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994 and completed his
doctorate at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in 1999.
He joined the faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied
Science the same year.
do you keep students excited about computer science?
science is both an exciting intellectual endeavor and an amazing
tool. Most of computer science is about creating and solving puzzles,
inventing and using languages, and designing and observing interactions.
These are things that nearly all human beings are naturally drawn
to, once they discover them.
arent more women interested in computer science?
of the reason is that computer science education especially
in our middle schools and high schools focuses on math
and video games, fields that women dont generally find interesting.
On the other hand, most of whats interesting in the field
of computer science has to do with language, logic, music and
biology, areas that generally do interest women. Also, at U.Va.
the College doesnt offer a computer science major, so the
classes offered by the Engineering School are filled mostly with
engineering students, most of whom are already planning careers
in the field. If the College offered a bachelor of arts degree
in computer science, it would open up the field to many more people,
especially women. The women who do go into computer science usually
excel at it. I see it in my classes and in the many important
contributions women have made to the field.
is your research focus?
particularly interested in computer security and swarm computing.
Some of my work in computer security involves creating a software
tool Splint that can identify security
flaws in programs. I started working on it when I was a grad student
at M.I.T., and my research group here is making it more powerful
and easier to use. Were also working to expand the tools
scope. Its good at detecting silly implementation problems
that lead to a lot of security vulnerabilities. But detecting
problems that relate to how the system is engineered around the
concepts of trust and sharing is much harder. Its not just
a question of correcting errors in a few lines of code. Were
looking for a way to automate the process of catching higher-level
computing sounds like it should relate to bees.
where the concept comes from. Swarm computing is what nature does
well a group of bees form a swarm, a collection of cells
form a complex organism. The individual bees or cells are not
smart, but the system is smart. Its the challenge of designing
a system, made up of a collection of small and simple devices,
harnessed together to solve global problems. We think we can learn
a lot about how to build robust computer systems that behave predictably
as they grow by looking at how nature does things. And we believe
that building biologically-inspired computational models will
help us learn more about biology.