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image: Ricardo Valerdi, a professor of systems and industrial engineering at the University of Arizona, is named a Fulbright specialist.
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Credit: University of Arizona

Cost estimation expert Ricardo Valerdi, Professor Emeritus(link is external) of Systems and Industrial Engineering(link is external) at the University of Arizona, traveled to Spain at the end of March to work with a team research center based at the Carlos III University of Madrid, or UC3M, specializing in computer science – the study of the structure, behavior and interactions of computer systems. The international group, which also includes a collaborator from the University of Piura in Peru, is developing a research paper and planning tool for those analyzing the pros and cons of software reuse. Their analysis will help developers determine the potential savings associated with software reuse.

Taking parts of the software code originally developed for a product and using them for a new project has economic benefits, but can also come with drawbacks and isn’t always practical, Valerdi said. Some software is too old to be reused, written in a software language incompatible with modern systems, or of such poor quality that it is not worth fixing. If the software code is poorly written, it would require major repairs to eliminate bugs and defects. Sometimes defects are more expensive to fix than building the software from scratch. He advises thorough planning and sees a need for this type of analytical tool in all industries and in the public and private sectors.

“Software is everywhere,” he said. “It is therefore increasingly important to understand software projects and their economics, because we depend on them for everything – financial transactions, transport, education. Even our health records are on a computer system.

An international collaboration

The Fulbright Program, which operates in more than 160 countries around the world, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and other countries. . Fulbright Specialist Award recipients are selected on the basis of their accomplishments, leadership, and potential to foster long-term cooperation among institutions in the United States and abroad.

Valerdi, who is fluent in Spanish and spent part of his childhood in Mexico, has long had an international outlook. He was inducted(link is external) into the Mexican Academy of Engineering in 2017, following in the footsteps of his father, Jorge Valerdi, and his uncle, Jose Albarrán. He has also been a visiting scholar at the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, the University of South Australia and the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

He met his research collaborators in 2017 when he visited the Polytechnic University of Madrid during a sabbatical and gave a talk on the development of cost models. The group is led by Professor Juan Llorens from the Computer Science Department of UC3M. Llorens and his colleagues saw connections between Valerdi’s research and their own and began discussions about collaboration. The group’s accepted proposal for the Fulbright Specialist Program allows Valerdi to spend two weeks in Madrid and return for a further two weeks in May. Llorens is also considering a visit to the AU in 2023.

“It’s great to see the community of interest,” Valerdi said of working with partners outside of the United States. “It’s been extremely fruitful for me because, even though they’re on the other side of the world, they’re working on similar issues and research.”

Valerdi teaches a cost estimating course and looks forward to leading the UC3M course via videoconference. The founder and chief scientist of Science of Sport,(link is external) a non-profit organization focused on educating young people about STEM, is eager to share with students in real time what he is learning abroad .

“It helps to give students exposure to the rest of the world. It can be done by us, by Fulbright. We can bring that worldview to the classroom,” he said.


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