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Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant to Establish Saint Louis University Open Source Software Center

News — ST. LOUIS – A $704,482 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will establish the Saint Louis University Free Software Center.

The grant, awarded to Kate Holdener, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science, will fund the creation of a new software engineering lab that will engage students in the development of open source software to support interdisciplinary projects in STEM fields. .

“Our graduate students are now building software in their project-based, two-semester capstone course,” Holdener said. “They can build whatever the customer needs, but once they’ve built it, there’s no support structure or maintenance.”

The Center will engage graduate and undergraduate students in open source software development, focusing on research software projects that help SLU faculty meet and advance their research goals. Faculty members will be able to submit software requests, and then graduate students will work alongside SLU researchers to determine the details of those requests, prototype and design software solutions.

Undergraduate computer science students enrolled in project-based courses will also collaborate with the Center as part of their coursework, working under the mentorship of graduate students to implement various designs and test software produced using industry standard practices.

“It allows us to work more professionally,” Holdener said. “Projects will come in and graduate students will work to break them down into smaller tasks so that elements of the project can be handled by students of different skill levels.”

The new center would allow professors who need software support for their research to keep the work in-house at SLU, furthering the university’s interdisciplinary research goals.

Holdener said she is also excited about the opportunities the Center will provide for hands-on experience for undergraduate students.

“It also gives our students real-world experience that they can show an employer,” she said. “All entry-level IT positions still require experience. This will give our students a chance to build their resume in a publicly visible way.

Holdener said that after coming up with the idea to expand SLU’s open-source software capabilities, she looked for funding opportunities. The Sloan Foundation grant seemed like the perfect fit.

In addition to graduate student stipends, the two-year Sloan Foundation grant will also fund a program director, who will oversee the Center and work toward financial sustainability. This includes other external grant funding opportunities as well as opportunities for local technology companies to support Center initiatives.

“I am thrilled, honored and grateful to have received this grant,” Holdener said. “I wanted to create an environment that brings classroom software engineering closer to reality, and I believe this center will provide such an environment.”

Holdener spent a decade at Exegy, Inc. as a software engineer, senior API engineer, and product manager, before joining SLU four years ago.

“It was great to have experience in the industry, but after 10 years I wasn’t learning anything new,” she said. “Now I have the opportunity to learn new things all the time – I’m the happiest person at SLU.”

SLU researchers and faculty can make requests for open source software development or updates for research efforts here.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a nonprofit, mission-driven granting institution dedicated to improving the well-being of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then president and CEO of General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in four broad areas: direct support for research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics; initiatives to increase the quality, equity, diversity and inclusiveness of scientific institutions and the scientific workforce; projects to develop or exploit technology to enable research; and efforts to improve and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.

St. Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions in the country. Rooted in Jesuit values ​​and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous and transformative whole-person education. At the heart of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-oriented mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better and fairer place.

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