Software Engineering Foundations, Spring 2019


Name Office E-mail Office Hours
(also available by appointment)
Jeff Foster 211 Halligan MW 1:15-2:00pm
Tomoki Shibata Wed: Halligan extension 007; Fri: Halligan 209 W 4:15-5:15pm, F 9:30-10:30am


LocationBromfield-Pearson Room 002
TimeMW 3:00-4:15
MidtermMarch 13, in class
FinalMay 3, 3:30-5:30pm
Textbooks There are no required textbooks

The scale of modern software systems is truly amazing. We regularly use software that is hundreds-of-thousands to millions of lines of code, and that software, while certainly not bug-free, mostly does what it is supposed to. Achieving this kind of scale has been the result of steady progress in software engineering over the last several decades.

In this class, we will study the foundations of software engineering, focusing on the core principles and ideas that enable us to build large-scale software systems. Our focus will be on the coding side of software engineering. Equally important, but deferred to a different course, is the people/team side of software engineering. We will explore ideas such as abstraction, modularity, architecture, specification, testing, and debugging, among others.

The course will be conducted in Java, and will include a short introduction to Java at the beginning. During the course, students will complete a number of programming assignments, and the course will also include some reading assignments.

Prerequities: COMP 40, graduate standing, or instructor consent. If you are not sure whether you meet the prerequisites for the course, please contact the instructor.

Jan 14(No class)No class
Jan 21MLK Day
No class
Reading Assignment #1
Jan 28Java
Project 1
Feb 4Java
Feb 11Design Patterns
Reading Assignment #2
Design Patterns
Project 2
Feb 18President's Day
No class
(Feb 20) Modularity Discussion
Design Patterns
(Feb 21) Design Patterns
Feb 25Software Architecture
Reading Assignment #3
Mar 4Fuzz Testing Discussion
Mar 11Midterm ReviewMidterm
Mar 18Spring Recess
No class
Spring Recess
No class
Mar 25Refactoring
Project 3
Program Verification
Apr 1Guest Lecture: Milod Kazerounian, Program Verification (cont'd)Guest Lecture: Diogenes Nunez, Garbage Collection
Reading Assignment #4
Apr 8Security
No Silver Bullet discussion
Project 4
Apr 15Patriots' Day
No class
How Failures Come to Be
The Scientific Method
Reproducing Problems
Apr 22Simplifying Problems
Fixing the Defect
Reading Assignment #5
ACM Code of Ethics
Apr 29What Makes a Great Software Engineer
Final Exam Review
(No class)

  1. (Due Jan 30) Tony Hoare, Null References: The Billion Dollar Mistake
    • It's okay to read the show notes instead of watch the video.
    • Q1: What was the most interesting thing you learned from the presentation?
    • Q2: Do you think null pointers really were a billion dollar mistake?
  2. (Due Feb 20) D.L. Parnas, On the Criteria To Be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules
    • Q1: Briefly describe one important lesson about modularity that the paper describes and that you think is still relevant today.
    • Q2: Computing has advanced significantly since this paper was written. Briefly describe one challenge (not necessarily with modularity) or perspective that, while realistic in 1972, does not apply today.
  3. (Due Mar 4) Miller, Fredriksen, and So, An Empirical Study of the Reliability of UNIX Utilities
    • Q1: Briefly describe one strength and one weakness of fuzz testing.
    • Q2: Two modern fuzz testers are american fuzzy lop and libfuzzer. Pick one, look through the web page(s) for it, and briefly describe one way it improves on the original fuzz testing work of Miller et al.
  4. (Due Apr 10) Brooks, No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering
    • Q1: Briefly discuss one contrast Brooks draws between Software Engineering and other areas or science or engineering.
    • Q2: Brooks discusses several "Hopes for the silver", but his comments are about the state of the art in 1987. Describe one "hope for the silver" that you see today, but that Brooks did not see back then. Or, if you are a pessimist, explain why there is no hope.
  5. (Due Apr 29) Li, Ko, and Zhu, What makes a great software engineer?
    • Q1: What was the most surprising characteristic to you of a great software engineering, as described by the paper?
    • Q2: What are some things you might want to do on your own, after this course ends, to become a great software engineer?

Syllabus subject to change until the start of the semester


COMP 40, graduate standing, or instructor consent. If you are not sure whether you meet the prerequisites for the course, please contact the instructor.

List of Topics (Tentative)

Below is an approximate list of topics for class. The exact topics will be determined based on the pace of the class.

Office Hours and Web Forum

Office hours for the instructional staff will be posted on the course web page a few days into the semester.

While we will provide assistance with assignments during office hours, you are responsible for developing and debugging your own programs. Do not rely on the instructional staff to make your project work.

Important announcements will be made in class or on Piazza. Please make it a habit to check Piazza daily, and/or sign up to receive email when updates are posted to Piazza. You may also use the class web forum to ask general questions of interest to the class as a whole, e.g., administrative issues or project clarification questions. Please do not post any information that would violate the University's Academic Integrity Policy.


You are responsible for all material discussed in class and posted on the class web page, including announcements, deadlines, policies, etc. Your final course grade will be determined according to the following percentages:

Meet your professor1%

Any request for reconsideration of any grading on coursework must be submitted within one week of when it is returned. Exam regrading requests must be made in writing. Any coursework submitted for reconsideration may be regraded in its entirety, which could result in a lower score if warranted.

Final course grades will be curved as necessary, based on each student's total numeric score for all coursework at the end of the semester. Important: Completing the programming assignments is an essential part of the course. Therefore, we may fail any student who does not make a good-faith attempt on all course projects, regardless of the student's performance or scores on the other coursework.

Programming Projects

Projects must be submitted electronically following the instructions given in class. Projects may not be submitted by any other means (e.g., please do not email your projects to us). It is your responsibility to test your program and verify that it works properly before submitting. All projects are due at 11:59pm on the day indicated on the project assignment, according to the submission server's internal clock.

Projects may be submitted up to 24 hours late for a 10% penalty. For example, a project that would earn 90 points for an on-time submission will earn 81 (which is 90 times 0.90) if submitted late. Note that your project score as it appears on the project submission server will not include any late penalties. Any penalties will be incorporated into the final project grade on the grade server.

Exam Scheduling

The class includes a midterm and a final exam. Tentative dates for the exams will be posted on the class web site. The exact dates will be confirmed later. We will let you know the exact dates well in advance.

Academic Resources

The Academic Resource Center offers a range of services for students.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Tufts University values the diversity of our students, staff, and faculty, recognizing the important contribution each student makes to our unique community. Tufts is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the Tufts experience. If you have a disability that requires reasonable accommodations, please contact the Student Accessibility Services office to make an appointment with an SAS representative to determine appropriate accommodations. Please be aware that accommodations cannot be enacted retroactively, making timeliness a critical aspect for their provision.

Please also contact the instructor to discuss any necessary accommodations.

Excused Absences

You are expected to attend class regularly, complete course assignments on time, and take exams at the scheduled times. If you are unable to fulfill these requirements due to absence for a good reason, the instructor will excuse the absence and provide accommodation. Events that justify an excused absence include:

It is your responsibility to inform the instructor in advance of intended religious observances. Notice must be provided immediately upon an exam date being announced or confirmed for an absence to be excused.

The policies for excused absences do not apply to project assignments. Projects will be assigned with sufficient time to allow students to carry out the work even with other responsibilities. In cases of extremely serious documented illness of lengthy duration or other protracted, severe emergency situations, the instructor may consider extensions depending on the specific cirucmstances.

Absences stemming from job interviews, traffic or transportation problems, personal travel, and similar will not be excused.

Academic Integrity

The university's Academic Integrity Policy will be strictly enforced.

Unless otherwise specified, programming projects are to be written individually. Therefore, cooperation or use of unauthorized materials on projects is a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy. Project solutions may not be posted online. Any evidence of this, or of unacceptable use of computer accounts, use of unauthorized materials or cooperation on exams or quizzes, or other possible academic integrity violations will be reported.

For learning the course concepts, students are welcome to study together or to receive help from anyone else. You may discuss with others the project requirements, the features of the programming languages used, what was discussed in class and in the class web forum, and general syntax errors. Examples of questions that would be allowed are "Does a Java class definition end in a semicolon?" or "What does a 'class not found' error indicate?", because they convey no information about the contents of a project.

When it comes to actually writing a project assignment, other than help from the instructional staff a project must solely and entirely be your own work. Working with another student or individual, or using anyone else's work in any way except as noted in this paragraph, is a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy. You may not discuss design of any part of a project with anyone except the instructor or teaching assistants. Examples of questions you may not ask others might be "How did you implement this part of the project?" or "Please look at my code and help me find my stupid syntax error!". You may not use any disallowed source of information in creating either their project design or code. When writing projects you are free to use ideas or short fragments of code from published textbooks or publicly available information, but the specific source must be cited in a comment in the relevant section of the program.

Violations of the Code of Academic Integrity may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Failing to do all or any of the work on a project by yourself, other than assistance from the instructional staff.
  2. Using any ideas or any part of another person's project, or copying any other individual's work in any way.
  3. Giving any parts or ideas from your project, including test data, to another student.
  4. Allowing any other students access to your program on any computer system.
  5. Transferring any part of a project to or from another student or individual by any means, electronic or otherwise.

If you have any question about a particular situation or source then consult with the instructor in advance. Should you have difficulty with a programming assignment you should see the instructional staff in office hours, and not solicit help from anyone else in violation of these rules.

Right to Change Information

Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, the instructor reserves the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials.