Kent State professor receives top research award, eye tracking and source code developments


Professor Maletic was awarded with the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award.

Mateo Martin Reporter

Professor Jonathan Maletic from the Department of Computer Science was awarded with the 2021 Faculty Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award for his findings in eye tracking and source code research.

Maletic is a published computer science professor who helped develop a widely downloaded source code software and does research on how eye tracking technology can track programmer’s behavior.

Maletic uses this technology to keep track of where a programmer is looking on the screen and then mapping that to which file they’re looking at. Maletic and his colleagues keep track of things like what line of source code a developer is at or how they are scrolling through it.

“Previously, no studies with real world software could be done because it’s too difficult to do manually,” Maletic said. “So we automated this process and presented it as an open source project, and other researchers use it to understand how developers work in a real world setting.”

The research uncovers habits that people take on across their learning experience. He’s noticed that experienced developers tend to skip around code, whereas more novice ones read from top to bottom in more detail. 

Maletic has a grant from the National Science Foundation to support his eye tracking research and another grant for an open source software called source code markup language, or srcML.

SrcML is a platform that analyzes and manipulates source code. For example, if a developer wanted to make the same change to a large amount of code, they could use srcML to do so. It also can be used to find out how often certain things occur or to extract certain codes.

Michael Collard is a professor at the University of Akron who worked with Maletic to create srcML and obtain funding for it. They presented their first official srcML paper about the concept of the idea in 2003 at the International Conference of Program Comprehension.

In the last twenty years since srcML was established, they have won two Most Influential Paper Awards at this conference and have added multiple developers to the team.

Now, Maletic’s contribution in srcML and in eye tracking development has also been recognized at Kent State.

The award showcases the faculty members who have been there more than ten years and display the highest levels of scholarship. But in order to get the quality research he is accredited to, he works with his students on a daily basis.

“Basically, I wouldn’t do any research if I didn’t have any students,” he said.

He has honors and graduate students that work directly with him via his grant money during the summers. 

Another professor, Tara Smith of the College of Public Health, also won the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award, but for epidemiology studies.

Mateo Martin covers research and the environment. Contact him at [email protected].