Two North­eastern Uni­ver­sity com­puter sci­en­tists have received a three-​​year, $500,000 grant from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to design algo­rithms capable of catching bugs in soft­ware and hard­ware sys­tems both more effi­ciently and reli­ably than ever before.

The algo­rithms will be designed to func­tion in micro­proces­sors found in tech­nology such as cell phones, avionics sys­tems and med­ical devices. In some cases, undis­cov­ered bugs could lead to product recalls, soft­ware crashes or even loss of life.

The project dove­tails with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity and sustainability.

Serious bugs can cost bil­lions of dol­lars to fix,” said prin­cipal inves­ti­gator Pete Mano­lios, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence. “Making sure micro­proces­sors do what they are sup­posed to do and are bug-​​free is a major challenge.”

Mano­lios will col­lab­o­rate on the project with research sci­en­tist Eugene Gold­berg and sev­eral com­puter sci­ence grad­uate students.

The beauty of the new algo­rithms lies in their ability to trans­form proofs of models into tests that can be applied to phys­ical devices in order to find bugs, Gold­berg said.

This is a much more pre­cise and math­e­mat­i­cally sen­sible way to approach soft­ware ver­i­fi­ca­tion,” he explained. “We have really come up with a new approach for trans­fer­ring proofs from models to actual phys­ical systems.”

The North­eastern researchers recently sub­mitted a National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion grant pro­posal to explore their inno­v­a­tive approach to soft­ware ver­i­fi­ca­tion on a larger scale. Over the next three years, the research team plans to con­nect with com­pa­nies that have a vested interest in soft­ware ver­i­fi­ca­tion, such as Intel, IBM and Mentor Graphics.

We want to look at more application-​​specific approaches and incor­po­rate our research into industry prac­tice,” Mano­lios said. “We want to create a pathway to industry.”