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International recognition for SU computer scientist
Author: Media and Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 14/11/2017

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced Prof Willem Visser from Stellenbosch University as one of a select group of distinguished members for his outstanding contribution to the field of computing and information technology.

ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, selected the 2017 group from institutions around the world for their contributions to a wide range of technical areas including accessibility, computational geometry, cryptography, computer security, computer science education, data structures, healthcare technologies, human-computer interaction, nanoscale computing, robotics, and software engineering.

In a media release issued on Wednesday 8 November 2017, ACM President Vicki L. Hanson says computing technology is transforming society at every level: “In naming a new roster of distinguished members each year, ACM underscores that the innovations which improve our lives do not come about by accident, but rather are the result of the hard work, inspiration and creativity of leading professionals in the field.”

Prof Visser, a full professor in the Computer Science Division at SU, is regarded as a world leader in the field of software engineering. He was one of the pioneers in applying model checking to detect defects in programs written in modern programming languages. He is best known for his work on the Java PathFinder model checker which was developed while being a researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, California.  Since moving back to Stellenbosch in 2009 his main focus has been on probabilistic symbolic execution, a novel combination of symbolic analysis and model counting to allow precise reasoning about the reliability of software.

He was part of a six member team that was responsible for updating the Software Engineering curriculum guidelines published in 2014. From 2012 he is an elected member-at-large of the ACM SIGSOFT Executive Committee.

Prof Visser holds an A-rating from South Africa’s National Research Foundation and is vice-dean: research in the Faculty of Science at SU.

Prof Visser says he is greatly honoured even more so as one cannot apply for selection, but has to be nominated by a peer. This nomination should include a motivation and several letters from fellow scientists.