The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Postdoc Brittany Johnson Leaves Lasting Impression at CICS

Brittany Johnson joined the College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) in 2017 as the first fellow in the CDS postdoctoral fellowship program after completing her PhD in computer science at North Carolina State University. Working with Associate Professor Yuriy Brun, Johnson has spent the past three years developing Causal Testing, a new technique that helps developers understand the root causes of software bugs. Causal Testing automatically produces pairs of inputs for faulty software in which one input fails and the other succeeds. This can help software engineers determine the cause of faulty behavior. Johnson, along with Brun, and Associate Professor Alexandra Meliou, authored the paper “Causal Testing: Understanding Defects’ Root Causes,” which was accepted to the International Conference on Software Engineering, one of the top software engineering conferences in the country. 


Another focus area for Johnson was fairness, transparency, and accountability in machine learning. Working in the Laboratory for Advanced Software Engineering Research (LASER) in CICS, Johnson’s research goal was to explore and improve ethical software development tools and practices using Themis, a testing-based approach for measuring bias in software.


Johnson also spent a significant amount of time collaborating with industry partners from HireMe, MassMutual, and Google. “From my first year as a postdoc we were talking with people in industry,”said Johnson. “I got a lot of experience collaborating with industry on ideas and potential solutions in ways I hadn’t before.”


Johnson says she is grateful to have had this postdoc opportunity at UMass. “There are so many great things going on at UMass -- such excellent researchers, synergy, and productivity. That type of inspiration was needed for me. I don’t know where I would be or what I’d be doing if I didn’t do this postdoc with Yuriy. I’m so grateful for the experiences and connections.”


According to Brun, the feeling is mutual. “Brittany has been a pleasure to work with at UMass. In addition to doing great research, she's been a fantastic influence and mentor to the other students in the lab, and on faculty she has worked with here. I can honestly say I have learned at least as much from her and she has from me. We're very lucky Brittany chose to do a postdoc at UMass, and wish her the best of luck in her next, great adventure as a professor!”


In Fall 2020, Johnson will be joining the Department of Computer Science at George Mason University as a tenure-track faculty member.