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Introducing Quebec's first doctoral program in software engineering

Concordia answers the industry's call for highly specialized graduates
October 4, 2016
By Meagan Boisse

This fall, Concordia is welcoming a new cohort of doctoral students as it becomes the only university in Quebec, and one of two in the country, to offer a PhD in Software Engineering.  

Currently, the university already offers popular bachelor's and master's programs in the burgeoning field, and with 16 professors presently conducting software-engineering research within the faculty, it is primed for expansion.

“It’s a natural extension of the portfolio of programs we already offer,” says Peter Rigby, an assistant professor in software engineering and lead writer and champion of the new program. “It will allow students to focus on core software-engineering topics instead of it being a sub-discipline of computer science.”

Rigby says the implementation of the PhD program is important right now as a lot of doctoral students are doing work in software engineering yet getting their PhDs in computer science, despite their being notable differences between the two disciplines.

“Computer science focuses more on developing the theory behind new algorithms, whereas software engineering looks at patterns for the creation of large-scale systems and how large teams collaborate to create these systems. It’s much more applied,” explains Rigby.

Sudhir Mudur, chair of Computer Science and Software Engineering, worked closely with Rigby during the development of the program. He says the new PhD will focus on creating theories, tools and techniques that have direct applications within an industry concerned with efficiently producing correct, reliable and user-friendly software for different platforms.

“Graduate students who wish to pursue research in software engineering will find that this degree appropriately reflects their research emphasis,” says Mudur. “It is unique because it clearly differentiates their specialization in software engineering.”

Responding to a growing need

Concordia has been steadily expanding its software-engineering roster, hiring four new tenure-track professors in the field since 2012. The department will continue to grow, with plans to take on more talent in the coming year.

The new PhD program is coming at a time when demand is high, with enrolment in the master’s program higher than in the more general computer science designation,

“A number of graduates from our BEng and MASc programs have expressed interest in pursuing doctoral research here at Concordia,” says Mudur. “So this new program meets the need of academia, evident from the large number of universities which advertise positions in software engineering, as well as industry research units who are looking for people with advanced and specialized knowledge and skills in this field.”

Mourad Debbabi, associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies, says the need for high-calibre software engineers has never been so present as it is today.

“Nowadays everything has to be smart — buildings have to be smart, power systems have to be smart, transportation systems have to be smart, homes have to be smart, phones have to be smart, and smart means there is software.”

An expected 18 students will begin their PhD in software engineering this September; that number is expected to grow to 32 by September 2017, and to 82 by the year 2020.

“As the program evolves, it is bound to further enhance Concordia's reputation in the field of software engineering in Canada and internationally,” says Mudur.

Find out more about Concordia's Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering.


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