Engineering Software-Intensive Systems

October 5, 2017
2:50pm - 4:00pm
Halligan 102
Speaker: Nancy Leveson, MIT
Host: Lenore Cowen / Diane Souvaine


While our systems are becoming more and more complex, primarily due to the increasing use of software, our approaches to engineering for safety and cyber security have remained relatively constant and are becoming less effective. As one example, automobiles today contain about one hundred million lines of software. Totally autonomous cars will contain even more. The current approaches, particularly the academic ones, do not scale and are too limited to be effective.

In this presentation, a new approach to safety and cyber security will be described that is based on systems thinking and systems theory, as described in the Leveson’s book, Engineering a Safer World: Applying Systems Thinking to Safety. The new systems-theoretic approach to safety is being used successfully in just about every industry around the world and has been shown through both scientific evaluation and empirical use to be both more powerful and less expensive. More recently, it has been found to apply to cyber security. Surprisingly, while it is spreading in industry, it is little known in academic research.


Prof. Nancy Leveson is a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, although she taught for many years in computer science. Dr. Leveson was an expert advisor in the writing of the Columbia Space Shuttle accident report and the Presidential Commission Report on Deep Water Horizon as well as less well-known accidents. Dr. Leveson teaches and consults widely on hazard analysis, design, operations, management, and social aspects of safety in a variety of industries including aerospace, defense, transportation, petrochemicals, nuclear power, and healthcare. In 2000, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


Professor Leveson will be available in Halligan 102 after the colloquium for a round-table with students sponsored by ACM-W.