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Professor M Petre

Professor Marian Petre

Profile summary

Research interests

Marian Petre is interested in expertise in software design. Her interdisciplinary research draws on cognitive theory and qualitative research methods to analyze how expert software designers behave and reason when solving design problems. Her research is grounded in empirical studies of actual professional practice in industry.  She has investigated software design from a number of different perspectives, including: cognitive dimensions of notations, a whiteboard tool for design, programming paradigms, graphical and textual notations, software visualisation, disciplines of innovation, and how designers learn effective strategies.  Most recently, she has been studying the integration of software engineering practices into computational science.

Her current projects include:​

•   EPSRC:  Secure, adaptive, usable software engineering (SAUSE)

•   EPSRC:  Why Johnny doesn't write secure software?  Secure software development by the masses

•   Mozilla:  'Design talk' workshops

Her past projects include:

•   PLOS/Mozilla scientific code review studies

•   NSF: Studying Professional Software Design

•   Royal Society/Wolfson: Empirical studies of expert design

•   Wolfson: Open Science Laboratory

Teaching interests

Most of Marian’s teaching has focused on developing research skills and promoting understanding of the Ph.D. process. Her emphasis is on identifying and articulating strategies and knowledge that others take for granted, and on translating research findings into conceptual direction and focus for teaching.  For example, she and Gordon Rugg co-authored ‘The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research’ and ‘A Gentle Guide to Research Methods’.

TM356:  Interaction design and the user experience

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CRC: Human Centred ComputingCentreFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology
CRC: Software Engineering and DesignGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology
Empirical Studies of Software DevelopmentGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

Why Johnny doesn’t write secure software? Secure Software Development by the Masses
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Apr 201731 Dec 2021EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Developing software is no longer the domain of the select few with deep technical skills, training and knowledge. Mobile and web app development and easy to program hardware devices, such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi, have resulted in a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds developing software. Such software can be, and is, used by a potentially global user base. But what are the security implications of such software development by ‘the masses’. Are we moving toward a ‘wild west’ in which a diversity of skills and motives in those developing software will affect its security? This diversity of developers is here to stay and is at the heart of a range of innovations in the digital economy. However, little is currently understood about the security behaviours and decision-making processes of the masses – Johnny – engaging in software development. Without such foundational understanding, we cannot hope to leverage a hitherto untapped resource, Johnny, in developing resilient software that is used by millions around the world. From this foundation, we can consider the implications of their assumptions and design choices and provide new tools and techniques to support them. Such foundational research and advances are the focus of this proposal.