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Wednesday, February 06

The Biology of Software

Stephanie Forrest, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Special Joint Institute for Biological Sciences –
Joint Institute for Computational Sciences Seminar
9:00 AM — 10:00 AM, Building 4500-N, Weinberg Auditorium
Contact: Gary Sayler (, 865.241.1244


Computer programmers like to think of software as the product of intelligent design, carefully crafted to meet well-specified goals. In reality, large software systems evolve inadvertently through the actions of many individual programmers, often leading to unanticipated consequences. Because software is subject to constraints similar to those faced by evolving biological systems, we have much to gain by viewing software through the lens of evolutionary biology. The talk will highlight recent research applying the mechanisms of evolution quite directly to the problem of repairing software bugs, including security vulnerabilities. It will describe an automated method for repairing errors in off-the-shelf, legacy programs without formal specifications, program annotations, or special coding practices.

About the speaker
Stephanie Forrest is Regents Professor of Computer Science at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, and a member of the Santa Fe Institute External Faculty. Her research studies adaptive systems, including immunology, evolutionary computation, biological modeling, computer security, and software. Professor Forrest received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer and Communication Sciences from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from St. John's College. Before joining UNM in 1990 she worked for Teknowledge Inc. and was a Director's Fellow at the Center for Nonlinear Studies, Los Alamos National Laboratory.