13.10.17 16:18

Sabbatical Report For Students

Leipzig, October 2017

Dear students,

in the summer term 2017 I enjoyed a research sabbatical. I want to tell you a little about my visits of various locations. Some of this information might be of interest to you.

My first stay was at the Westfälische Hochschule in Gelsenkirchen, where I visited Professor Jürgen Znotka, who teaches software engineering in computer science. A long time ago we have been colleagues at the Daimler-Benz Research Center in Ulm, Germany. We had a very intensive exchange about electronic assessments (EA). The Information Systems Institute of the Leipzig University seems to be a frontier with respect to EA. Conducting EA is not only a technical issue. It requires much work to prepare valid exams, building item pools, and continuously ensuring the quality of items. Additionally, a number of administrative steps has to be taken before, such as adapting examination regulations. All this has been done successfully at the Information Systems Institute. Currently, Professor Znotka tries to introduce EA for his courses too. Furthermore, he was so kind to take one of my examinations in software technology. Afterwards we discussed each item and I could conclude that this exam was indeed valid, at least acording to the opinion of Professor Znotka. We agreed on a loose cooperation with respect to electronic assessments in software engineering, especially about setting up a pool of common items.

Moreover, we discussed the changes in the student population. We share the opinion that in general the motivation for studying computer science or information systems changed as well as the qualification of the first-year students. According to our observations there is a certain decline of overall studying qualifications, but a considerable increase in their variation between beginners.

My presentation of redundancy reduction as a driver for the evolution of programming concepts was well-received and stimulated a vivid discussion. 

Next, I visited Professor Dr. Krzystof Czarnecki, at the Waterloo Center for Automotive Research of the University of Waterloo. For many years I had a very fruitful cooperation with Professor Czarnecki, which started at the Daimer-Benz Research Center in Ulm and persisted several years afterwards. The outcome of this collaboration is Generative Programming or Generative Software Engineering respectively, which led the well-known book Generative Programming. Methods, Tools, and Applications, and the Conference on Generative Programming: Concepts & Experience, which is in 2017 located in Vancouver, Canada.

Professor Dr. Krzystof Czarnecki in his office at the University of Waterloo (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

I gave two talks, one on „Software Visualization in 3D and Virtual Reality“, and the other on „Redundancy in Source Programs. On The Evolution of Programming Concepts“. Both topics were discussed intensively and I collected much important feedback.

It was very interesting to join lectures, seminars, and research meetings of Professor Czarnecki, members of his group, and his students. An important focus of his research group is machine learning in the context of autonomous driving, especially by creating artificial environments that can be used to train various cooperating neural networks for performing tasks like recognition, planning, and actuating.

If you have a strong interest in research related to autonomous driving you may consider to contact Professor Czarnecki and ask him about the possibilities to (temporarily) join his group. Please be prepared that it may take a long time until you get an answer to your email. So trying to contact him by Skype might be more promising. Do not forget to provide extensive information about yourself, your research vita, and your motivation. 

Autonomous driving car of the Waterloo Centre for Autonomous Research (WATCAR) (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

An interesting experience was a visit of Shopify‘s Kitchener Waterloo Office. There we met with Simon Helsen. He, Krzysztof, and me co-authored the paper „Staged Configuration Using Feature Models“ which appeared in the proceedings of the International Conference on Software Product Lines SPLC 2004 (pp 266 – 283) which will receive a most influental paper award at SPLC 2017. Unfortunately, at Shopify I had to sign a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement. Hence, I can write almost nothing here. But, like other companies Shopify looks for talented and interested IT- and software engineering people. If you want information about current openings have a look at . From time to time they might be offer for internships. If you want more information about the application process and related topics please contact

Simon Helsen, Krzysztof Czarnecki, and myself at Shopify‘s Kitchener Waterloo Office (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

Canadian part of the Niagara Falls (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

Afterwards I visited Professor Dr. Stan Jarzabek at the Bialystok University of Technology. Professor Jarzabek enjoys a high reputation for his research on software re-use and detection and removal of structural code clones. Hence it was obvious to give an improved version of my talk on redundancy avoidance and the evolution of programming concepts. During my stay I had various inspiring discussions with Professor Jarzabek, going far beyond software engineering, such as ethics and politics. Like Professor Czarnecki I consider him to be true global citizen.


Professor Dr. Stan Jarzabek in his office at Bialystok University of Technology (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

By the way, Bialystok is a lovely city with nearly 300.000 citizens and several universities. In the center of the city is a large plaza with many restaurants and shops where people meet and enjoy life – as I did too some evenings. 

Plaza in the center of Bialystok (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

My next visit led me to Hochschule Kaiserslautern, Standort Zweibrücken, where I worked before I joined the Leipzig University. I enjoyed a warm and cordial welcome of my former colleagues of the computer science and microsystem engineering department. My presentation of software visualization was well received and once more I got valuable feedback. I was deeply moved when Dr. Hubert Zitt showed me the poster about astrophotography which I produced in the year 2003. It is still hanging at the wall in the entrance of the Audimax! After my presentation we moved to a beer garden in Zweibrücken where an interesting discussion stated with my former colleagues. It was about development of curricula, experiences on introducing new study courses, and changes of the student population. Their observations and opinions overlap remarkably with those of Professor Znotka mentioned above. Unfortunately, there are no conclusive ideas how to meet the challenges that arise from the fact that more than the half of a birth year begins an academic study, and that an increasing number of students start a master program just to compensate a not so good bachelor degree, while very good bachelor graduates immediately start to work in industry – at least in computer science or information systems.

Dr. Hubert Zitt (right) and myself in the entrance hall of the Audimax of Hochschule Kaiserslautern, Standort Zweibrücken (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

My last trip was to Seville in Spain, where I participated at the Software Product Line Conference 2017 (SPLC 2017). Together with Krzysztof Czarnecki and Simon Helsen I received the most influential paper award for the paper “Staged Configuration using Feature Models”, which was presented at SPLC 2004.

Award Ceremony “Most Influential Paper” at SPLC 2017 showing – from left to right – Don Batory, Krzysztof Czarnecki, and myself (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

Certificate of “Most Influential Paper”-Award at SPLC 2017 (photographer: Ulrich Eisenecker)

If you have questions related to my report or want information about a possible stay at the locations mentioned above, do not hesitate to send me an email.

Thanks for reading,

Ulrich Eisenecker

letzte Änderung: 16.10.2015