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PhD Scholarships

Semantic Differencing of Domain-Specific Models

Full Scholarship

Full Industrial CASE scholarship in collaboration with Rolls-Royce Control Systems. Applications are open and will be considered as they arrive until the position is filled.

Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is the practice of raising domain-specific models to first-class artefacts of the software and systems engineering process, using such models to analyse, simulate and reason about properties of the system under development, and eventually often auto-generate a part of its implementation. MBSE is used extensively in organisations such as Rolls-Royce that produce business- or safety-critical software, where defects can have catastrophic effects (e.g. loss of life) or can be very expensive to remedy (e.g. require large scale product recalls).

At the heart of MBSE processes are domain-specific models, conforming to bespoke modelling languages, that describe problems and solutions at an appropriate level of abstraction. As domain-specific models evolve over time, understanding how they change in each iteration is important for quality and impact management purposes. This project will investigate approaches for differencing domain-specific models and presenting the identified changes using effective semantics-aware visualisations.

Research Questions

The key research questions to be addressed by this project are the following:

  • To what extent can the graphical syntax of a domain-specific language be reused to visualise differences in models that conform to it in a meaningful way?
  • Can bespoke transformations produce more effective semantics-aware visualisations than generic abstract-syntax driven differencing algorithms (e.g. such as those implemented in tools like EMFCompare and EMF Diff/Merge)?
  • If so, can commonalities be identified in such bespoke transformations, which could be pulled up to a higher level of abstraction and simplify their development?

Objectives and Training

The student will be part of the Doctoral Centre for Safe, Ethical and Secure Computing at the University of York. Training activities they will be involved in will include interdisciplinary sandpits and mentored teaching, as well as workshops on ethics, scientific storytelling and policymaking. In addition to weekly supervision meetings, the Centre’s students will also have end-of-the-week cohort meetings to reflect on the activities of the past and coming week, and to share good practices in research productivity, resilience and overall well-being.

In the context of their project the student will:

  • review literature on model comparison and differencing
  • become familiar with state-of-the-art technologies for domain-specific language development and model management
  • develop facilities for generating semantics-aware differencing visualisations from domain-specific models
  • evaluate the effectiveness and scalability of the developed differencing visualisation techniques
  • integrate the developed facilities into version control systems to enable effective model reviewing

How to Apply

You can apply for this scholarship through the University's online system. You don't need to include a research proposal for this project as its topic is pre-defined.