About the S²ERC


The mission of the Security and Software Engineering Research Center is to conduct a program of applied and basic research on software security, system security and software technology problems of interest to its members.


In 1976, the National Science Foundation (NSF) established an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) Program to encourage more collaborative endeavors between academia and industry. The goal of the program was to establish self-sufficient research centers of excellence in areas of critical technology. Our Center, now in its 30th year of operation, is one of over 100 I/UCRCs established by the NSF, and the only one devoted to security and software engineering. In 2004, the Software Engineering Research Center (SERC) graduated from the I/UCRC program and became a self-sustaining research center.  As the research focus evolved within the Center to include greater emphasis on software and system security, NSF recognized the shift and invited the SERC to propose a new center within the I/UCRC program that would formally recognize the SERC's evolving research initiatives. Thus the Center for Information Protection (CIP) at Iowa State University, also an I/UCRC, and the SERC, housed at Ball State University, combined their research strengths to form the new Security and Software Engineering Research Center (S²ERC). In February 2010, SERC and CIP officially became the S²ERC, one NSF-funded I/UCRC. The Center continues to grow and evolve: In July 2011, the NSF approved Virginia Tech, with its focus on the research challenges of cyber security, to become a third main site within the Center.  Finally, in April 2014, the NSF approved Georgetown as its fourth S²ERC site.

S²ERC Research Today

S²ERC researchers are faculty and students from CS, EE, Industrial Engineering, Management, Law, Government, and Systems Engineering programs at 14 universities. Researchers work with non-academic practitioners at affiliate industry and government sites, who provide guidance, feedback, and funding.

Industry-university collaboration powerfully improves the software process and product. Researchers gain access to real-world data and to experienced practitioners who can validate their models and guide their research; not to mention the benefit of stable, long-term funding. Affiliate companies gain immediate access to innovative research that is often stratified beyond areas they might normally support. Affiliates are furthermore able to appoint their research dollars to a particular project (or projects) that address a specific technical need in their company, and they can request research proposals addressing particular problems of interest. (Projects are generally carried out within a 2-to-4 year time horizon, a standard set by affiliates.)  S²ERC strives to cultivate a rich industry-university dialogue throughout the technology transfer; thus, customized software engineering research projects are the norm in the S²ERC.

The S²ERC has three NSF Primary Sites:

  • Georgetown University
  • Ball State University
  • Virginia Tech

Other universities plan to become Primary Sites:

  • University of Texas
  • Penn State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of West Florida

The following institutions also participate in active research associations with S²ERC:

  • Bournemouth University, England
  • DePaul University
  • Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
  • James Madison University
  • University of Limerick, Ireland

The S²ERC attracts high-energy, creative researchers who represent the best in their field to make up its multi-faceted team. Our researchers are national research prize winners, NSF Career Award winners, patent holders, chairpersons or co-chairpersons of major software conferences, and editors of major publications in software engineering.  NSF recognized SERC’s 20-year commitment to software engineering research excellence with the NSF Excellence Award presented to SERC Director Wayne Zage in November 2005.  Some of the S²ERC's most successful projects are in the areas of design metrics, testing, process modeling, security, and maintenance; but when a need in a specific field or area arises, S²ERC consistently draws in viable and respected researchers to address that need. There is no shortage of eager and knowledgeable research talent in the Center.

S²ERC research advances have been described in over 300 technical reports and in thousands of journals and refereed conference papers. Many papers submitted by SERC researchers and students, sometimes with an affiliate practitioner as a co-author, have won awards such as best conference paper or even best paper in a specific area over a decade.  One research direction, software design metrics, won the prestigious national Alexander Schwarzkopf Award for Technological Innovation in 2007. Today the S²ERC continues to support and cultivate the productive reasoning, imagination, and collaboration in customized research projects that have made the past 30 years so successful.