Computer Science

Contact Information

Fuller Laboratories, 130
Phone: +1-508-831-5118
Fax: +1-508-831-8776

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Kathi Fisler

In both teaching and research, I'm fascinated by how people understand objects and concepts. I love teaching introductory courses, with their challenge to help students gain the perspective of a new field. My research touches on various topics at the intersection of people and how they understand computational systems. Recent projects include tools for teaching programming, techniques to help people explore consequences of access-control policies, and ways to reason formally from semi-formal diagrams.

I'm leading the development of WPI's security curricula, drawn to security's demands to find balance among technical constraints, human behavior, and organizational priorities. I'm at my best trying to help others learn how to learn, whether in the classroom or the research lab. WPI's combination of hands-on projects and research provides me an excellent and ever-changing playground.

Research Interests

  • Computing Education
  • Human-centered security
  • Formal methods


  • BA, Williams College, 1991
  • MS, Indiana University, 1992
  • PhD, Indiana University, 1996

Featured Publications

  • Measuring the Effectiveness of Error Messages Designed for Novice Programmers. Guillaume Marceau, Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi. ACM SIGCSE 2011.
  • Mind Your Language: On Novices' Interactions with Error Messages. Guillaume Marceau, Kathi Fisler, and Shriram Krishnamurthi. OOPSLA Onward 2011.
  • A Model of Triangulating Environments for Policy Authoring. Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi. ACM Symposium on Access Control Models and Technologies, July 2010.
  • The Margrave Tool for Firewall Analysis. Timothy Nelson, Christopher Barratt, Daniel J. Dougherty, Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi. Usenix Large System Administration Conference (LISA) 2010.
  • Escape From the Matrix: Lessons From a Case Study in Access-Control Requirements. Kathi Fisler and Shriram Krishnamurthi. Symposium on Usable Security and Privacy (SOUPS) Poster Session. July 2009

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Professional Highlights

  • NSF CAREER award
  • WPI Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education
  • AT&T Graduate Research Fellow
  • Inaugural SIGCSE Best Paper Award
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