Sudanese CS professor, Rasha Osman, improves software and database performance

Dr. Rasha Osman · Associate Professor · University of Khartoum Sudan

“When I was a kid and living in the US, I took a weekend computer programming course. I wrote a text-based haunted house maze game with some images and sound. I remember I drew the haunted house using a graphics program. It was fantastic! Sadly, I accidentally deleted it and the instructor could not find the file so I could not take a copy on my 5¼-inch floppy disk!”

“In Sudan, bright high school students are encouraged to choose between biological sciences or mathematical sciences. I chose mathematical sciences in order to go into engineering, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was looking for a discipline where I could leave a mark and have a positive impact in Sudan. Studying computer science and building software systems fulfilled that aspiration.”

“At my university, computer lab space was limited. During one summer, I read through a Pascal programming language textbook and solved all the programming exercises manually. I would test the programs manually and write the expected outputs for predefined inputs. When I would go into the lab, I would type the programs, compile and use my inputs to test whether the programs were correct. If I found an error, I would mark my program so as to review it later and move to the next program to save time. This experience has been influential in developing my programming skills.”

“I am most proud of is a database system I participated in developing for a large food production firm in Sudan. The project was the first large contract for my software business AlMukhtar Ltd and it gave us a name within the software industry in Sudan. The software system automated the majority of the business processes, which increased their productivity and allowed them to diversify their product range without an increase in cost. My proudest moment was when the firm discovered an error in the balance of one of their bank accounts: I remember the accountant’s broad smile when he called to report the error to the bank. The bank later acknowledged that it was a clerical error and resolved it.”

“The database development experience I gained working on this project later led to my interest in database performance and thus my research into database performance modelling which is the focus of my current work. My area of research is software performance engineering, which is the application of statistical and mathematical techniques to evaluate the performance of software and database systems. For example, when you are online shopping and your browser hangs; one reason could be because the system is overloaded by user requests. I develop mathematical models to represent the website, the traffic accessing the website and the backend database. Then we model various scenarios and workloads so that we can suggest better designs that resolve the bottlenecks in the system. Thus shoppers do not experience delays and businesses can save time and money.”

“My current experience is a combination of studying in Sudan and working in the software industry there, complimented and enhanced by my postgraduate studies in the UK and then working as a postdoctoral research associate with top researchers at Imperial College London, UK. I have been guided by and learned from exceptional people and I hope I am able to pass on this knowledge and experience to others. “

“Be genuine. Learn to learn. Do not compromise your core values. Excel at what you do. Respect others.