Sarah Fakhoury
curriculum vitae

I’m a PhD candidate in Computer Science at Washington State University advised by Dr. Venera Arnaoudova. My research expertise is broadly in developer productivity, bridging techniques from HCI and Cognitive Neuroscience to empirical methods in Software Engineering. The goal of my research is to design programming tools and languages to empower developers to achieve their goals with greater cognitive efficiency.

My research has been recognized with an ACM SigSoft Distinguished Paper Award and is supported by a Microsoft Research Fellowship and the NSF I and II.

Some of the projects I’ve worked on include:

  • Quantifying the impact of poor source code lexicon on cognitive load and productivity during bug localization [1] [2].
  • Understanding how source code readability impacts cognitive load [2], and whether existing models of code readability align with user’s perceptions in practice [3].
  • Understanding how success metrics used to evaluate summarization models align with developer’s perceptions of success [4]
  • Building tools to visualize the cognitive load of programmers during computing activties [5], and support the editing of code during eyetracking studies [6] to enable researchers to study cognitive processes of programmers as they code. Play around with the VitalSE demo!

My dissertation proposes a novel framework to model the cognitive load of developers in real-working environments through the combined use of minimally invasive brain imaging (fNIRS) and eye tracking technology. If you’re interested in learning more about biometrics in software engineering, check out my living document: Resources for fNIRS in Software Engineering.

(Left) Cognitive load measured during a comprehension task (Right) Eye tracking data mapped over evolving code elements


Aug 2022 In August 2022, I will be joining the RiSE team at Microsoft Research!
Jun 2022 Our paper "Program Merge Conflict Resolution via Neural Transformers" has been accepted to ESEC/FSE 2022. Preprint coming soon!
May 2022 Invited to the Eye Movements in Programming (EMIP 2022) panel on "Practical Implications of EMIP Research on Software Engineering and CS Education". EMIP will be held on May 18, 2022 and is co-located with ICSE!
Jan 2022 Invited to the Schloss Dagstuhl Seminar on Foundations for a New Perspective of Understanding Programming October 3 - 7.
Nov 2021 Excited to be serving on the organzing committee for ICPC 2022 as Publicity Chair and Tool Track PC member, and ETRA 2022 as Virtualization chair. Consider submitting!
Jun 2021 Re-assessing Automatic Evaluation Metrics for Code Summarization Tasks has been accepted at ESEC/FSE 2021!
May 2021 Speaking at the Manning Developer Productivity Conference. Talk titled: Mind over code: using neural imaging to reduce the cognitive burden of your code.
Feb 2021 Interning at Microsoft Research, working with the RiSE, P+I, and SAINTES teams!
Jan 2021 gazel: Supporting Source Code Edits in Eye-Tracking Studies has been accepted at ICSE 2021!
May 2020 So honored to receive an Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher award by the Washington State University EECS deparment!
Mar 2020 A Model to Detect Readability Improvements in Incremental Changes has been accepted at ICPC 2020!
Feb 2020 VITALSE: visualizing eye tracking and biometric data has been accepted at ICSE 2020!
Jan 2020 Extremely honored to be one of ten students in North America to receive the 2020-2022 Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship. Read more!
Oct 2019 Incredibly grateful to be a recipient of the Mahmoud M. Dillsi Family Graduate Fellowship!
Jan 2019 Interning as a Data Scientist at Microsoft working with the Data & AI team!
Nov 2018 Visiting TU Delft and giving a talk at Dr. Felienne Hermans’ Psychology of Programming class!