Software Engineering Research Projects

We present below several representative research projects developed in the Software Engineering Laboratory (SOELA).

Nevada Climate Change Portal and the SENSOR Network

Understanding climate change requires coordinated efforts from scientists, engineers, politicians, and the public. At the center of these efforts lies a common thread - software. The SENSOR Network and the Nevada Climate Change Portal (NCCP) work together to provide real-time information about Nevada's climate to interested groups around the world. The SENSOR system consists of temperature and other climate sensors placed throughout the state of Nevada, using software that collects data in real time. This data is sent to servers designed and maintained by software engineers at the University of Nevada on the UNR campus. There, software parses the incoming data and transforms it into a representation that can be made available to the world. To facilitate this global availability, the NCCP resides on the web at, a website engineered at the University of Nevada, Reno in cooperation with several other Nevada institutions. Through careful software engineering, we have made a significant advance in the measurement and communication of climate data throughout the state.


Relevant Publications

  • Dascalu S. Imagine a million file cabinets of climate data: The Nevada Climate Change Data Portal. Invited talk, Nevada Climate Change Seminar Series. University of Nevada, Las Vegas, September 7, 2011. Video and slides are available at UNLV's Digital Scholarship repository.
  • McMahon, M.J., Jr., Dascalu, S., Harris, F.C., Strachan, S. and F. Biondi (2011). Architecting Climate Change Data Infrastructure for Nevada, in Salinesi, C. and Pastor, O. (eds.), Advanced Information Systems Engineering Workshops CAISE-2011, Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing, LNBIP-83, June 2011, Springer, pp. 354-365.
  • McMahon, M.J., Jr., Harris, F.C., Jr., S. Dascalu, and Strachan S. (2011). S.E.N.S.O.R.- Applying Modern Software and Data Management Practices to Climate Research, Procs. of the 2011 Workshop on Sensor Network Applications (SNA-2011), Nov. 2011, Honolulu, HI, pp. 147-153.
  • Mensing, S., S. Strachan, J. Arnone, L. Fenstermaker, F. Biondi, D. Devitt, B. Johnson, B. Bird, and E. Fritzinger (2013), A Network for Observing Great Basin Climate Change, Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), 94 (11): 105-106. Available at
  • Dittrich, A., Dascalu, S., and Gunes M. (2013). ATMOS: A Data Collection and Presentation Toolkit for the Nevada Climate Change Portal. Procs. of the Intl. Conf. on Software Eng. and Applications (ICSOFT-EA 2013), Reykjavik, Iceland, July 2013, pp. 206-2013.
  • Motwani, R., Motwani, M., Harris, F.C. Jr., and S. Dascalu (2010). Towards a Scalable and Interoperable Global Environmental Sensor Network Using Service-Oriented Architecture, Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP-2010), December 2010, Brisbane, Australia, 6 pages.

Engineering a Framework for Model and Data Interoperability

In the scientific community, simulations are important for testing hypotheses and making predictions. These simulations, or "models," are extraordinarily complex and require a significant effort to create, maintain, and use.

One of the most challenging tasks of modeling is being able to create communication between several of these models in order to generate a more accurate simulation. Creating this interoperability between models is a significant software engineering problem that requires careful planning, but more often than not the planning falls by the wayside. Some of the issues one must overcome when trying to couple models together are different data formats, different programming languages,  different operating systems,  and many others.

The Demeter Framework tackles several of these challenges at once by utilizing various web technologies and the .NET framework. Demeter, through an easy-to-use GUI, allows the user to "shop" an extensible library of data sources, activities/models, and format converters that can be combined together to create powerful interoperability scenarios. Additionally, users will be able to contribute their own activities to the library, allowing for easier dissemination of their modeling research.

At its core, Demeter was engineered to do a lot of the work for the scientists when it comes to model and data interoperability, thus allowing the scientists to focus on the science rather than the programming.


Relevant Publications

  • Fritzinger, E., Dascalu, S. M., Ames, D. P., Benedict, K., Gibbs, I., McMahon, M., and Harris, F. C. (2012). The Demeter Framework for Model and Data Interoperability. Proceedings of the International Congress on Environmental Modeling and Software (iEMSs-2012), Leipzig, Germany, July 2012, pp. 1535-1543.
  • Dascalu, S., Fritzinger, E., Okamoto S. and F.C. Harris, Jr. (2011). Towards a Software Framework for Model Interoperability, Procs. of the 9th IEEE International Conf. on Industrial Informatics (INDIN 2011), July 2011, Lisbon, Portugal, IEEE Computer Society, pp. 705-710.
  • Okamoto S., Fritzinger E., Dascalu S., Harris F.C., Jr., Latifi S., and M. McMahon, Jr. (2010). Towards an Intelligent Software Tool for Enhanced Model Interoperability in Climate Change Research, Proceedings of the World Automation Congress (WAC-2010), Kobe, Japan, September 2010, IEEE Computer Society, 6 pages.

A separation-based UI architecture with a Domain-Specific Language for role specialization

This research work, conducted primarily by Ph.D. candidate Ivan Gibbs, was focused on creating a new software development methodology centered on the natural role specialization characteristic of people.

Based on existing work in the field, we proposed a unique separation-based UI architecture focused on specialized roles, namely user interaction (Ux) professionals and code writers (or computer programmers). A distinguishing characteristic of our approach is the use of a domain specific language (DSL) to bridge the gap between the two roles' knowledge domains, to accomplish higher-level abstraction, and to free the user-interface designer from having to learn and master a programming language. Furthermore, we rely on model-driven engineering (MDE) techniques of automatic code generation to further enhance the benefits of using a DSL.

A complete methodology was created to implement the proposed architecture, reap the benefits of role specialization, take advantage of DSL-based abstraction and automated code generation, and provide step-by-step practical guidance in a variety of software development applications that contain UI components.

To illustrate our approach, an NetCDF file subset extractor application built using the proposed methodology was also developed. The proposed method was compared with related approaches and the results of applying it were evaluated using a usability study, an analysis of automated code generation efficiency, and a comparison with several tools that could have been used to create a similar software application to our NetCDF subset extractor program.

Relevant Publications

  • Gibbs, I., Fritzinger, E., Dascalu, S.M., Harris, F.C., Jr., and Shen, Y. (2013). A Workflow Job Manager for the Nevada Climate Change Portal. Procs. of the 2013 Intl. Conf. on Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS-2013), May 2013, San Diego, CA, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 316-323.
  • Gibbs, I., Dascalu, S.M., and Harris, F.C., Jr. (2013). Web Portal Usability Tests for the Nevada Climate Change Portal. Proceedings of the Intl. Conf. on Information Technology: New Generations (ITNG-2013), Las Vegas, NV, April 2013, IEEE Computer Society Press, 39-45.
  • Fritzinger, E., Dascalu, S. M., Ames, D. P., Benedict, K., Gibbs, I., McMahon, M., and Harris, F. C. (2012). The Demeter Framework for Model and Data Interoperability. Proceedings of the International Congress on Environmental Modeling and Software (iEMSs-2012), Leipzig, Germany, July 2