He is known for his work in generic programming, particularly as applied to C++, and his collaboration with Alexander Stepanov. Their work together includes coining the term "generic programming" in Musser & Stepanov (1989), and led to the creation of the C++ Standard Template Library (STL).
In Musser (1997), he developed the sorting algorithm called introsort (also known as introspective sort), and the related selection algorithm called introselect, to provide algorithms that are both efficient and have optimal worst-case performance, for use in the STL.
In 2007 he retired from Rensselaer.
- Musser, D. R.; Stepanov, A. A. (1989). "Generic programming". In P. Gianni (ed.). Symbolic and Algebraic Computation: International symposium ISSAC 1988. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 358. pp. 13–25. doi:10.1007/3-540-51084-2_2. ISBN 978-3-540-51084-0. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Musser, David R. (1997). "Introspective Sorting and Selection Algorithms". Software: Practice and Experience. 27 (8): 983–993. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-024X(199708)27:8<983::AID-SPE117>3.0.CO;2-#. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Generic Algorithms", David Musser