Susan H. Rodger Biography

Susan H. Rodger is a Professor of the Practice in the Computer Science Department at Duke University. She was previously an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from 1989 to 1994. She received a PhD in Computer Science from Purdue University in 1989, an MS in Computer Science from Purdue University in 1985, and a BS in Computer Science and a BS in Mathematics from North Carolina State University in 1983. Rodger works in the areas of visualization and interaction, and computer science education. The main projects she has major contributions in are visualization and interaction software for education in theoretical computer science, computing in K-12 and peer-led team learning.

Rodger has developed educational software and materials, co-authored one book, co-created an online Coursera specialization on Java (with five short courses), co-created an online Coursera course on Alice, and published over fifty journal and conference publications. Rodger's research has been supported by thirteen National Science Foundation grants totaling over 6 million, eight IBM Faculty Awards, and other funding from IBM, Google, Coursera, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard for a total funding of approximately 10 million. She was the chair of the AP Computer Science Development Committee from 1997-2000 and a member of the AP Computer Science Development Committee from 1995-2001. She was a member of the ACM Education Policy Committee from 2008-2017. Rodger was on the ACM SIGCSE Board for nine years as Secretary (2010-2013), as Board Chair (2013-2016) and as Immediate Past Chair (2016-2019). She has also been involved with the SIGCSE Symposium in many ways including co-Chair for SIGCSE 2008, Program co-chair for SIGCSE 2007, Panels and Special Sessions Chair for SIGCSE 2005, and Supporter/Exhibitor Liason from 2008 to 2014, a position she led the effort to create in 2008. With J.D. Dougherty they created the SIGCSE Kids Camp in 2008, a daycare and enrichment program during the SIGCSE Technical Symposium that has continued. She led the effort to found SIGCSE's newest fourth conference CompEd, which was first held in 2019, and is currently on the CompEd Steering Committee. Rodger has been a member of the CRA-WP (formerly CRA-W) Board since 2010 where she has co-organized one Graduate Cohort Workshop for female graduate students and over ten workshops on Early and Mid Career Mentoring for female faculty and graduate students. She has organized four Alice Symposiums and over forty workshops on Alice, JFLAP, Peer-led Team learning, and other computer science education topics. She has supervised over ninety undergraduates and fifteen masters students in research projects, and co-advised one Ph.D. student.

Rodger received the IEEE Computer Society 2019 Taylor L. Booth Education Award, Duke University Trinity College 2019 David and Janet Vaughn Brooks Distinguished Teaching Award, ACM 2013 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award in 2020, the ACM Distinguished Educator award in 2006, and she was one of two finalist candidates for the 2007 NEEDS Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware for the software JFLAP. She was inducted into the NCSU Computer Science Alumni Hall of Fame in 2019.

Visual and Interactive Software for Computer Science

Rodger has developed JFLAP, software for experimenting with formal languages and automata, for thirty years with forty-eight students. Rodger started developing software tools for the area of formal languages and automata in 1990. The first tool developed was NPDA, then expanding into FLAP (Formal Languages and Automata Package) with Finite State Machines, NPDA and Turing Machines. Many related tools were developed along the way such as JeLLRap, LLparse, PumpLemma, and Pate. In 1996, the FLAP software was converted to Java and renamed JFLAP.

With JFLAP one can build and experiment with several types of automata (finite state machine, pushdown automata, multi-tape Turing machine, Moore and Mealy machines), regular expressions and several types of grammars (regular, context-free, and unrestricted). One can experiment with proofs such as NFA to DFA, DFA to minimal state DFA, NPDA to CFG, CFG to NPDA, etc. One can experiment with parsing algorithms including brute-force, LL(1), SLR(1), and CYK. Additionally, one can experiment with L-systems and pumping lemmas for both regular and context-free languages.

JFLAP is the leading educational tool for formal languages and automata theory and is used around the world in several types of courses including formal languages and automata, compilers, artificial intelligence, and discrete mathematics. In 2006 JFLAP had already been downloaded from over 160 countries. Here is a list of schools and other statistics on its use in 2008. Google Analytics was added to the JFLAP page on Sept. 13, 2012. For the period from Sept 2012-May 30 2021 there were 815,291 sessions with 639,318 Users and 2,979,977 pageviews. JFLAP 6.1 was recognized as one of two finalist candidates in the NEEDS Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware competition in 2007. Here is the press release, and the submission packet that contains 68 letters in support of JFLAP. From the jflap.org page are listed 9 books that use JFLAP in some way including Rodger and her student Thomas Finley's book entitled "JFLAP - An Interactive Formal Languages and Automata Package", published in 2006. Also listed on jflap.org are over fifteen JFLAP papers written by Rodger, and over thirty-five papers written by others that use JFLAP in some way such as modifying it or using it in a class. In Rodger's 2009 SIGCSE paper she describes a two-year study on JFLAP with fourteen universities that shows the majority of students felt that having access to JFLAP made learning course concepts easier, made them feel more engaged in the course and made the course more enjoyable. The JFLAP project has been supported by six National Science Foundation grants.

A December 2011 paper in ACM Inroads by P. Chakraborty, P.C. Saxena, and C. P. Katti entitled Fifty years of automata simulation: a review wrote the following about JFLAP for an automata simulator. "The effort put into developing this tool is unparalleled in the field of simulation of automata. As a result, today it is the most sophisticated tool for simulating automata. It now covers a large number of topics on automata and related fields. The tool is also the best documented among the tools for simulation of automata." "The tool uses state of the art graphics and is one of the easiest to use. The tool is undoubtedly the most widely used tool for simulation of automata developed to date. Thousands of students have used it at numerous universities in more than a hundred countries."

Rodger has also done work in algorithm animation creating several animations or other tools, such as creating the scripting language JAWAA to easily create animations over the web. With JAWAA one can animate both primitive shapes and data structures such as arrays, lists, stacks and queues.

Integrating Computing into K-12

Rodger is a leader in integrating computing into K-12 using the Alice 3-D virtual worlds programming environment. The Adventures in Alice Programming project has been supported by National Science Foundation ITEST and ITEST Scale-up grants totaling 3.8 million dollars with additional support from IBM. She has run four Alice Symposiums and over twenty-five Alice Workshops, with the largest Symposium having over 120 attendees. She has taught Alice in one-week to three-week workshops to over 500 K-12 teachers who have taught Alice to over 10,000 students. She has developed free curriculum materials targetted to middle school and high school students that include over 120 curriculum materials including tutorials on programming and animation topics and challenge worlds to complete. At her two-week or longer workshops, K-12 teachers have developed over 300 lesson plans that include a sample Alice world that are also available for free. Teachers attending the workshops are in a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, science, language arts, history, music, art, foreign language, english as second language, business technology, computer applications and physical education. She has supervised over 30 undergraduate student projects on Alice and integrating computing into K-12 disciplines. Google analytics show that as of May 30, 2021 the Duke Alice web page had 54,289 users, 71,857 sessions and 94,883 page views since September 2012 when we started tracking it.

Peer-led Team Learning in Computer Science

Rodger is a leader in integrating peer-led team learning (PLTL) into computer science and was part of a collaborative effort with seven other universities that resulted in the pltlcs.org website, curriculum materials on PLTL CS, and four workshops on PLTL including one two-day workshop held at Duke University in 2007 with 73 participants. This project was supported by an NSF ITWF grant.

Coursera Courses

Rodger teamed up with Owen Astrachan, Drew Hilton and Robert Duvall and developed a Coursera specialization called Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals that launched in September 2015 and is a current Coursera specialization. The specialization contains five 4-week courses. The first course is Programming Foundations with JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The remaining courses focus on learning Java, with the last course a capstone project to build a recommender system. They have had over 96,000 course completions. Rodger recently created a new Coursera course with Stephen Cooper on the Alice 3 programming language entitled Introduction to Programming and Animation with Alice that launched in January 2020. A beta version of that course with K-12 teachers ran in Summer 2019 and Fall 2019.


Susan H. Rodger
Last modified: Fri Jul 2 12:19:21 EDT 2021