Assistant professor, ECU grad present papers at computer programming seminar

Attendees at the Southeastern Regional Programming Languages Seminar included, back row from left, Aubrey Bryant, ECU’s Mark Hills, Shivan Bhatt, ECU graduate Matt Davis, Alexis King, ECU student Aleksei Vilkomir and Harley Eades, and front row from left, Qi Zhao, Ravi Mangal, Clément Aubert and James O’meara. (Photo courtesy of SERPL)

Mark Hills, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, as well as a recent ECU graduate in software engineering, presented papers during the first ever Southeastern Regional Programming Languages Seminar May 11 in Augusta, Georgia.

Hills said the conference was designed for computer science researchers and students who do research in the areas of programming languages.

“I like these types of events because you really get to talk to people to find out what they’re doing and ask questions, and they can ask you questions as well, so I think it was a really good event for that,” Hills said. “We are all looking at different things, so because of that, we all got really interested in what the other people were doing because it was more than just what I do. It was in the general area, but it was different approaches and specific research outcomes people were looking at. So, there was a lot of interest and a lot of questions and some good discussion afterwards.”

Hills presented a paper titled “Understanding Database Usage in PHP Systems: Current and Future Work.”

“The work I do is in software engineering and programming languages,” Hills said. “It is looking at how developers use their existing programming languages to try to give them better tools, so looking at the types of software they write, trying to support them in understanding large software systems and writing better software.”

Also at the seminar, Matt Davis, who graduated from ECU in the fall of 2018, presented a paper called “Escaping the Clone Zone: Java Runtime-Managed Snapshots Current and Future Work.” Hills said Aleksei Vilkomir, an ECU student working on a master’s thesis in software engineering, also attended the conference.

“I think it’s good visibility for our students,” Hills said. “I had one student present, and I had one student come with me. It shows we have active research going on in this area, and it gives students the opportunity to get a bigger picture of the types of research other people do, because they see the types of work we do here at ECU but aren’t often exposed to the broader field and the types of research people do at other places.”

Hills called the seminar a positive experience for him, the students and ECU.

“I think it gives us some more visibility as a university that does have active research going on in these areas,” Hills said. “It provides potential opportunities to do effective collaborations that can be useful both for publishing work and for seeking grants because it may be possible to have multi-institution grants. We can find opportunities to work with people at other institutions.”

Hills said that faculty members at Augusta University organized the seminar, and plans are in the works for another seminar next year.

“We’re trying to decide where to hold it,” Hills said. “It could be back at Augusta. We’re looking to see if we could hold it here. We just need to figure out budgets and things like that. It may also be over at Appalachian State. We had a pretty good turnout from North Carolina. Hopefully, we’ll see it grow.”

More information on the seminar is available at

-By Ken Buday, University Communications