Andreas Zeller

Andreas Zeller (high resolution photo)

Andreas Zeller is faculty at the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security and professor for Software Engineering at Saarland University, both in Saarbrücken, Germany. His research on automated debugging, mining software archives, specification mining, and security testing has proven highly influential. Zeller is an ACM Fellow and holds an ACM SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award.

Mail:  zeller@cispa.saarland
Phone:  +49 681 302-70971
Twitter:  @AndreasZeller

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Doing a Thesis in the Software Engineering Group

If you are a student of Saarland University and have fun with automated program analysis, testing, and debugging, you might want to do a thesis with us. Here are the details on how this works.

Topic

If you want to do a thesis at our group, please send me a letter of motivation and your most recent transcript of records. I will then set up an appointment with you to discuss possible topics.

Topics will typically be related to our recent research interests. You will do real research, and some students even had a chance to publish and present your work in front of some international audience.

You can suggest topics and express interests of your own. Third-party topics, however, are only acceptable as part of an established research cooperation.

Advisor

Once we have agreed on a topic, you will be assigned an advisor from my group – a PhD student or PostDoc who you will closely work with. She or he will help you defining the your thesis proposal as part of the seminar.

Seminar

In the seminar phase, you are supposed to prepare your thesis. The seminar phase comprises the following steps:

Attendance

You have to attend the seminar on a regular basis. Details will be sent to you by the seminar organization.

Preparation

Your advisor will give you literature to read and possibly make you write a prototype or perform some preliminary experiments. This is important to help you understand your topic. This is a major part of the seminar which is mostly done in self-study.

Proposal

You have to write a thesis proposal that describes the goals of your thesis and the steps required to achieve those goals. See below.

Talk

Once the proposal is done, you have to give a talk in the seminar. Upon successful completion of those steps, you get a certificate (Schein) for the seminar. Congratulations!

Thesis Proposal

Your proposal serves as a contract between you and our chair. It describes a well-defined task and its outcome as well as possible risks. This helps you finish your thesis in time and protects you from unexpected changes.

A thesis proposal is usually between 8 to 10 pages long and consists of the following:

  1. Cover page including
    • thesis title
    • your name
    • date
    • revision information, if appropriate
    • names of supervisors and advisors
  2. A short abstract (1-2 paragraphs)
  3. An introduction into the field, the problem and the proposed solution (1 page max.)
  4. A discussion of the related work that has been conducted before. Discuss how your proposed work is related (and how it possibly advances the state of the art).
  5. The method you want to use to address the problem. Explicitly state verifiable hypotheses.
  6. The evaluation you want to use to assess how well your solution works. Provide details on how to verify the hypotheses started earlier (experiments, subjects, measures, …)
  7. A schedule with verifiable milestones to be reached on a specific date. State potential risks for the proposal and their impact, as well as how to mitigate them, including alternatives.
  8. Explicit success criteria that will help to assess your thesis, as lists of items:
    • Must-have criteria: Things your thesis must cover to be successful
    • May-have criteria: Things your thesis can cover to improve its value
    • Must-not-have criteria: Things your thesis will not cover (although one may think so)
  9. A bibliography listing all references.

A proposal typically undergoes a number of revisions between you and your supervisor; once it officially is handed in, it serves as a blueprint for the thesis. Your proposal will be graded as part of the Seminar.

Thesis

The earliest point in time when you can start working on your thesis is right after you handed in your thesis proposal and gave a talk in the seminar. As soon as you got the certificate for the seminar, you have to register your thesis in the same semester or in the semester after you got the certificate.

After you have registered your thesis you have to submit the thesis within the deadline set in the registration. For Bachelor students, this will normally be three months, for master students this will be six months.

Successful completion of a thesis consists of the following steps:

  1. Implementation. Typically, a thesis investigates a hypothesis. Depending on the concrete topic, you’ll have to implement a tool and possibly infrastructure to conduct experiments that prove or disprove the hypothesis.
  2. Thesis. Once you have completed your experiments and collected the results, you can start writing the thesis.
  3. Talk. You will present the results of your thesis in a 30-minute talk in the seminar.

Once you finished the steps described above, you’ll get a certificate (Schein) for the thesis. Congratulations!

Frequently Asked Questions