Latest News

Two Research Projects Funded by the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Completed (March 2022)

The STEP team recently completed two research projects funded by the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The projects were:

Testing Requirements and Functionality of Machine Learning Systems Especially in Cyber Resilient Approaches

Sajjan G. Shiva, PhD
Computer Science Department
University of Memphis

Best Practices in Testing and Evaluation for IT Systems Cybersecurity: A “Shift-left Framework”

Sandra M. Richardson, PhD
Dept. of Business Information and Technology
Fogelman College of Business and Economics
University of Memphis

Dr. Gillenson Inducted as ACM Senior Member (April 2021)

Dr. Mark Gillenson has been accepted as Senior Member of the ACM. The list of all award winners can be found at the following page: Home >> Senior Members >> Recipients

Dr. Poston to Give Keynote Address at the 7th International Conference on Software Engineering & Computer Systems (January 2021)

Dr. Robin Poston has accepted an invitation to be a keynote at the 7th International Conference on Software Engineering & Computer Systems, which will be held in Pekan, Malaysia on August 24-26, 2021. The title of her talk is: "Advancing Digital Society with Advanced Technologies: A Quality Culture."

Robin in Malaysia

STEP Leaders Recognized by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (October 2020)

 DHS Plaque

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Internship Announcement (October 2020)

October 7, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces an internship program called, "Student Trainee (Operation Research Analysis)."

The posting for this position is at: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/581091600

This is an excellent opportunity for U.S. citizens and may lead to permanent employment.

The Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP), a unit of the University of Memphis' FedEx Institute of Technology (FIT), has been working with DHS Headquarters for several years on the subject of software testing. It is possible that the successful candidate for this position will work with the software-centered DHS department that STEP has interacted with.

STEP Research Showcased at the field's leading International Testing and Evaluation Association's (ITEA) 37th Annual Symposium (September 2020)

September 28, 2020 – The Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP) is a major interdisciplinary research initiative under the umbrella of the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis. STEP is tasked with developing research and curricular competencies at the University of Memphis that will help position the university as a nationally and internationally recognized thought leader in the science of systems testing.

STEP researchers were major participants in the International Test and Evaluation Association's (ITEA) 37th Annual Symposium, which was held virtually September 14-18, 2020. ITEA is the premier professional association for Federal Agencies testing and evaluating new software-intensive systems. As vehicles of all kinds and other physical systems have become more complex and dependent on complex software, ITEA's role and STEP's research agenda have become much more critical. ITEA's annual symposium serves to advance test and evaluation globally by providing professional development resources, best practices, networking, and learning opportunities for the test and evaluation community. With over 300 attendees from organizations such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, STEP researchers shared their latest scientific findings, industry best practices, and educational information on how to perform testing and evaluation in today's modern technical landscape.

The Director of STEP, Dr. Robin Poston, hosted an impactful tutorial, with Mr. Wayne Dumais of the Department of Homeland Security, entitled, "T&E in Support of Agile: Test and Evaluation for Information Technology Acquisition." She also chaired a very well-attended panel on "Integrating T&E with Agile Development" and participated on additional important panels: "Test & Evaluation Leadership Panel" and "Future of the T&E Workforce." The Associate Director of STEP, Dr. Mark Gillenson, participated on two panels as well: "T&E of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy," and "Future of T&E."

Six technical presentations were made by University of Memphis STEP researchers and affiliated faculty:

  • "Cyber-Security Testing for Hybrid Energy Storage System Located in Smart Grid" by Profs. Mohd Hasan Ali and Sajjan Shiva.
  • "Automated Assessment of The Quality of Jupyter Notebooks Using Artificial Intelligence and Big Code" by Prof. Vasile Rus.
  • "Developing a Vehicular Network Emulator to Bridge the Gap in Network Architecture and Application Testing" by Prof. Lan Wang.
  • "Testing AI Transparency Features: A Factoral Experimental Design" by Profs. Huigang Liang, Nirmalee Raddatz, and Yinan Yu.
  • "DevSecOps Automated Security Testing Framework: Opportunities & Barriers" by Profs. Naveen Kumar (University of Oklahoma) and Robin Poston.
  • "Testing Machine Learning Algorithms with Consistent Explanations" by Profs. Deepak Venugopal and Sajjan Shiva.

In addition, STEP invited current FedEx testing Vice President Mike Knoll and former FedEx testing Vice President Anne Sparrenberger to participate in the symposium.

"The level of participation by STEP researchers illustrates the impactful scholarly work our STEP faculty at UofM are pursuing which have deep enriching impacts and insights that help our federal government and their partners move to greater heights of systems testing," concluded Dr. Poston.

STEP, which was founded in 2006 as a joint venture of the University of Memphis and the FedEx Corporation, has trained many hundreds of corporate personnel in Memphis and other U.S cities. STEP's relationship with Federal Agencies, which began in 2011, has included training hundreds of Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security personnel. In addition, STEP has conducted many research projects in the science of software testing involving corporate and government institutions.

For more information about STEP programs, contact Dr. Robin S. Poston (rposton@memphis.edu), Director of the STEP of the University's FedEx Institute of Technology, and Dean of the Graduate School, or Dr. Mark L. Gillenson (mgillnsn@memphis.edu), Associate Director of STEP and Professor of Business Information and Technology.

Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Project on Testing the Software in Autonomous Cyber-Physical Systems (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020)

STEP completed a one-year contract with the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, on testing the software in autonomous cyber-physical systems. The project was divided into two phases. Phase I entailed a study of the academic literature on such software testing. The results of Phase I were presented by Dr. Mark Gillenson and Dr. Eddie Jacobs at the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Scientific Test & Analysis Techniques Center of Excellence (STAT COE) 2020 Advancements in Test and Evaluation of Autonomous Systems Symposium, in Dayton, OH, October 28-31, 2019. Phase II entailed a study of industry best practices in testing the software in autonomous cyber-physical systems. This work was undertaken by Dr. Mark Gillenson, Dr. Eddie Jacobs, Dr. Naveen Kumar, Dr. Robin Poston, and Dr. Lan Wang.

The final report, combining the results of Phases I and II, identified the following academic and industry best practices:

  • Best Practice #1 Multi-Layered Software
  • Best Practice #2 Phased Expansion of Requirements
  • Best Practice #3 Planning for Large Input Space
  • Best Practice #4 Methods of Accumulating Test Cases
  • Best Practice #5 Executing Test Cases Via Simulation
  • Best Practice #6 Executing Test Cases Via Exploratory Testing
  • Best Practice #7 Well-Established Software Testing Practices
  • Best Practice #8 Neuron Coverage in Artificial Neural Networks
  • Best Practice #9 Image Mutation in Neural Network Training

Cody Behles Receives the University of Memphis' first Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) Degree (May 2020)

Dr. Cody Behles was the first recipient of the University of Memphis' new Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) degree with his dissertation: Testing Approaches of Autonomous Cyber-Physical Systems. His work coincided with STEP's Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Project on Testing the Software in Autonomous Cyber-Physical Systems, which took place during the same time period.

STEP Program Director Speaks at Test and Evaluation Mangers' Symposium 2019 in Washington DC (April 2019)

April 10, 2019 – Hosted by Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology, STEP Director Dr. Robin Poston talks about cyber resilience for major acquisition programs utilize the STEP research teams fifteen (15) years of accumulated knowledge from working intensively with industry partners, such as FedEx Corporate, AutoZone, Hilton Hotels, and more. At the Test and Evaluation Mangers' Symposium 2019 held at the US Department of Interior building in Washington DC, the panel and audience shared and debated best practices in cyber security test and evaluation (T&E). With more than 300 government and industry representatives in attendance, multiple panels discussed state-of-art issues and addressed hot topics in cyber resiliency T&E. Dr. Poston's panel discussed how it is everyone's job to remain vigilant when it comes to cyber resiliency, and software-intensive systems development must infuse cyber resilient awareness into its processes, including those focused on T&E. The event was a day-long affair where industry and government experts could network and socialize new ideas in this arena. Being a leader in the T&E space, STEP was called upon by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology group to help provide speakers and its own expertise.

STEP supporting The Academia Industry Software Quality & Testing (AISTQ) Conference being held April 24-25, 2018 (February 2018)

Hosted by Shamoon College of Engineering in Beer Sheva, Israel, The Academia Industry Software Quality & Testing (AISTQ) Conference brings together researchers and leaders from industry who are interested in contemporary software testing and software quality topics. The AISTQ conference provides an opportunity for academic and industry practitioners to meet, present, and discuss novel approaches, algorithms, and techniques for improving software quality. We invite those interested in software quality and testing, from both the industrial sector and academia, to take part in this event. The goal of AISTQ is to increase the important cooperation between academia and industry in any areas that are relevant to software quality and testing. See the following URL for more information: https://en.sce.ac.il/academic-units/software-engineering/aistq

STEP to participate in the CAST Foundations Cyber Security Certification Program September 25-29, 2017 (October 2017)

STEP team members will lead testing modules in the Cluster to Advance cyber-Security and Testing (CAST) Certification Program covering topics on how testers support better cyber security efforts. This foundational program covers the foundations of cyber security and cyber security vulnerabilities over a broad scope of topics. The week long certification course is comprised of multiple modules, each taught by an expert in the relevant subject area. This face to face course will be held at the FedEx Institute of Technology. For more information, please reach out to Dr. Robin Poston, rposton@memphis.edu.

STEP to offer Foundational Level Training October 2-6, 2017 (September 2017)

STEP research team will also be sharing industry best practices and the latest research findings of the testing field in the Foundational level training class. Classes are to be held at the FedEx Institute of Technology. The five-day foundational course, developed in conjunction with the FedEx Corporation, provides a broad and comprehensive survey of software testing. The goal of the training week is to provide attendees with a solid working knowledge of the major aspects of software testing so that they can successfully work as software testers or software developers who interact more effectively with software testers. For more information, please reach out to Dr. Mark Gillenson, mgillnsn@memphis.edu.

STEP Doctoral Graduate has Paper Accepted to the Premier IS Conference (August 2017)

The International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) is a conference of the Association for Information Systems (AIS) and premier outlet for the top ideas and leading thinking of our field. Dr. Jignya Patel, jpatel@fit.edu, a faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida and doctoral graduate of the University of Memphis, has a paper accepted to this conference which will be held in Seoul, South Korea December 10-13, 2017. Dr. Patel’s paper which is co-authored with other STEP researchers is about how agile adoption is gaining popularity in organizations, even those steeped in traditional software development because it has been shown to offer significant benefits. Yet project managers are often unable to implement agile to its full potential given stakeholder resistance. Project managers find workarounds as a compromise to resistance in certain situations, whether the actions are harmless or essential to resistance. This paper unfolds a case study to examine how project managers’ social intelligence competencies that include working with, persuading, and influencing people plays a pivotal role in working around resistance to agile adoption emanating from stakeholders within and outside the team. These findings apply to testing team members on agile teams and offers lessons on how they should engage with their project managers.

International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE) 2018 Coming to FIT (July 2017)

STEP to host and participate in the prestigious IEEE’s 29th International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE) conference at the FedEx Institute of Technology in 2018. ISSRE is the premier conference on the theory and practice of software systems reliability. ISSRE is an annual event that allows the top tier of research and industry to interact. In attendance, will be hi-tech and IT businesses partners and many researchers from Higher Education Institutions from around the world. ISSRE is the best Industry-Academia Technical Conference in Software Engineering. Most conferences cater either to the academia or the industry, but rarely bring the two together. Prior attendance illustrates an even split between researchers and senior technical people from industry. Over the past decade, ISSRE is credited as one of the few ACM or IEEE Software conferences that brings in the highest number of senior technical people from Industry. Please plan to join us for several days of stimulating idea sharing and international networking. For more information, please reach out to Cody Behles, cbehles@memphis.edu.

STEP Earns Research Contract with the Department of Homeland Security (June 2017)

STEP Researchers have been asked to perform a Competency Assessment & Skills Gap Analysis of the DHS testing workforce. Based on this analysis, customized training will be delivered to raise the overall sophistication of the testing at DHS. The contracted research work extends from June 2017 through June 2018. Today, executive management must focus on the strategic leveraging of an organization’s bundle of skills and competencies of their workforce. As the organization moves quickly to take advantage of ever-changing operating environments and opportunities, information technology workforce capabilities must not only ensure that business-as-usual demands are met, but be in a position to support new ventures quickly and continuously adjust to the ever changing technology landscape. Today’s workforce management strategies require specific focus on developing and maintaining a bundle of skills and competencies among employees that is ready for anything, agile in nature, and capable of being deployed at any time. DHS is seeking the help of STEP researchers to improve how well testing and evaluation is performed in order to prepare for the next era of information intensive systems testing.

BIT Department’s Jasmine Jackson earns the Dave J. Miller Excellence Award (May 2017)

At the 10th International Research Workshop on Advances and Innovations in Software Testing, held at the FedEx Institute of Technology, BIT student Jasmine Jackson received the Dave J. Miller Excellence Award for outstanding achievement in software testing coursework. The award comes with a stipend for Ms. Jackson. Dave Miller was personally presented this award in front of an audience of 95 testing professionals and academics attending the workshop run by the System Testing Excellence Program (STEP). STEP is an interdisciplinary research program that brings together the Departments of Business Information and Technology, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering to engage with industry partners in advancing the science of software testing.

“I was honored and thrilled to present the Excellence Award to Jasmine for all of the exceptional work she has done in software testing,” said Dave Miller, former VP of IT at FedEx Services, owner of Miller Mentoring and Consulting, and co-founder of STEP. “Jasmine is a model for others, demonstrating talent and character in her work. She will always be remembered as being the first to earn this award. I am extremely proud of her for representing the essence of excellence in software testing."