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Thuraisingham Receives the 2016 Senior Faculty Research Award

Thuraisingham (right) receives the award from the Dean of Jonsson School Dr. Mark Spong 
with Associate Dean Dr DT Huynh in the background

35 years of research, development, and technology transfer has resulted in prestigious fellowships, technical achievement awards from IEEE and ACM and culminates in the Jonsson School 2016 Senior Faculty Research Award for Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham. 

Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, became the first professor of Computer Science and the first woman to receive the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Senior Faculty Research Award. She received this award at the Jonsson School Award ceremony on May 7, 2016 for pioneering research contributions to cyber security. Thuraisingham, who is the Louis Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and the Executive Director of the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI), has not only built one of the top international cyber security institutes in the United States, but is also considered a pioneer in the field of Data and Applications Security.

During the span of her 35 year career, Dr. Thuraisingham’s work has not only resulted in several publications including over 120 journals, 250 conferences, and 100 panel presentations, but she also has obtained five patents, authored 15 books, and has received multiple prestigious awards including from IEEE and ACM. Bhavani is an elected Fellow of several prestigious organizations including the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2003), the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2003), the BCS (British Computer Society, 2005), the SDPS (Society for Design and Process Science – a society that promotes transdisciplinary research, 2011) and the Society of Information Reuse and Integration (SIRI, subcommittee of IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society). She is also the recipient of numerous awards including (i) the IEEE Computer Society’s 1997 Technical Achievement Award for “outstanding and innovative contributions to secure data management” (the first woman to receive this award), (ii) the 2001 Woman of Color Research Leadership Award from Career Communications Inc. (iii) the 2010 Research Leadership Award for “Outstanding and Sustained Leadership Contributions to the Field of Intelligence and Security Informatics” presented jointly by the IEEE Intelligent and Transportation Systems Society and the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society (iv) the 2010 ACM SIGSAC (Association for Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control) Outstanding Contributions Award for “seminal research contributions and leadership in data and applications security for over 25 years”, (v) ACM Distinguished Scientist 2010 (vi) the 2011 AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association) Medal of Merit for Sustained Professional Excellence in Communications, Electronics, Intelligence and Information Systems and Service to the Association, (vii) the SDPS 2012 Transformative Achievement Gold Medal for her interdisciplinary research on integrating computer sciences with social sciences, (viii) 2013 IBM Faculty Award in Cyber Security, and (ix) SIRI 2014 Research Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in Secure Information Integration. She was an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer between 2002 and 2005, also featured by Silicon India magazine as one of the seven leading technology innovators of South Asian origin in the USA in 2002, and has received multiple best paper awards at conferences. In 2013, Forensics Colleges named her one of the 15 Top Cyber Security Professors.

She is also a sought-after keynote speaker and has delivered more than 130 keynote addresses since 1994 including in well-known conferences such as International Conference on Extending Database Technology (EDBT), The ACM Symposium on Access Control Models and Technologies (SACMAT), The Pacific-Asia Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (PAKDD), The Annual IEEE International Conference on Tools with Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI), CollaborateCom, IEEE Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference (ISI), and IEEE International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications (IEEE ICMLA). She serves on several advisory boards as well as on editorial boards and has chaired over 30 conferences and given numerous television interviews on cyber security.

Since she founded UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI) in October 2004, it has had great success generating about $32 million in research and $8m in education funding with 100% success rate with National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Awards, several Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) awards, Department of Defense (DoD) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award, as well as myriad other awards for her team members.

Her early research between 1980 and 1983 was on the theory of computation while she was a visiting faculty at the New Mexico Tech and later the University Minnesota where she studied the unsolvability as well as the complexity of decision problems for system functions which are a generalization of computing systems. This research was published in top tier journals such as the Journal of Computer and Systems Sciences and the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic. Soon after she embarked on a career in the computer industry and was a senior systems developer at Control Data Corporation between 1983 and 1986, which was one of the premier computer companies at that time. She was a core team member of the CDCNET networking product and played a major role in its release in December 1985. During this time, she conducted research at the University of Minnesota in fault tolerant distributed systems and published papers in journals and conferences including the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering and the IEEE Local Area Network Conference. This was followed by a three-year stint at Honeywell between 1986 and 1989 where she was hired to work on a new Air Force contract to develop one of the pioneering secure database systems called Lock Data Views. This was the very early years of what has now come to be known as cyber security. Lock Data Views gained tremendous prominence with the federal government and industry communities and influenced commercial products such as Oracle’s trusted database system. This research was published in well known journals such as IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, Computers and Security journal, the IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE), Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Computer Magazine, the flagship publication of the IEEE Computer Society.

In January 1989, she joined MITRE, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, and led team efforts for the Air Force, Navy, Army and National Security Agency (NSA) to develop secure distributed database systems, secure object database systems and inference controllers. In 1990, she utilized her expertise in computability theory and proved that the inference problem for database security was unsolvable which was quoted as the most significant work in database security by the National Security Agency in 1990. In 1995, while heading a department in information and data management, she continued to work in data security as well as conducted research in real-time systems and data mining. Her objective was to develop secure real-time systems for the Air Force and apply data mining techniques for security applications for the Intelligence Community. Her work was again published in prominent journals and conferences including IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, Real-time Systems Journal, Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Object-oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA) conference, the International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (VLDB), Computer Security Foundations workshop, and the IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE). In addition to the research, together with her colleagues she obtained three patents on the systems they had designed and developed on inference controllers.

She joined National Science Foundation (NSF) as an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignee in 2001 from MITRE and managed programs in Information and Data Management, Information Management for Information Technology Research as well as started a special program in Data and Applications Security and was a founding member of the Cyber Trust theme. She was also involved in inter-agency research activities and delivered featured addresses at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the United Nations on Data Mining for Counter-terrorism. She also served on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board during the study on migrating legacy applications in 2001.

Following her 16 years at MITRE, she joined UT Dallas in October 2004 to develop cyber security research and education. While building a very successful team of researchers across the university, she also continued to excel in her research on cloud centric policy-based information sharing and data mining for malware detection. Together with her students and colleagues at UT Dallas, she published this research work in highly regarded conferences and journals including IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM), IEEE Transactions on Dependence and Secure Computing, ACM Transactions on Information and Systems Security, and ACM Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (SIGKDD). She also established interdisciplinary research with UT Dallas’ Jindal School of Management and the UT Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS) on risk and the economics of security. The team has obtained multiple patents on social media systems and data analytics systems.

“Bhavani is not only an outstanding researcher and leader, she is also an excellent mentor,” says Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, who is a professor of computer science at UT Dallas and an expert in data security and privacy. “From the time I joined UT Dallas in the fall of 2005 as a young assistant professor, she has given me advice and guidance and has introduced me to key people in Washington, D.C., as well as to the cyber security community,” added Kantarcioglu.

“I have known Bhavani for the past 28 years,” says Dr. Elisa Bertino who is a professor of computer science at Purdue University and the director of Purdue’s Cyber Center. “She is a role model for so many aspiring researchers in cyber security. She is by far the strongest team player I have encountered in my career and is always looking for a win-win situation,” added Bertino.

“Bhavani is a fearless leader,” says Dr. Gopal Gupta, head of the Department of Computer Science at UT Dallas. “She is always ready to take on new challenges whether it be getting into new research areas or teaching new courses. She works incredibly hard and takes a very strong team-oriented approach. She always says it takes a team to succeed,” added Gupta.

After a hugely successful technical, management and leadership career, when asked what her plans are for the future, she replied, “I have done a lot these past 35 years from designing and developing systems to studying the complexity of problems in computing, as well as managing and directing programs and leading teams. In the future, in addition to continuing with my research in cyber science, which is currently at the intersection of cyber security, cloud, and data analytics, I would also like to focus on cyber security policy-related research with the UT Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS). In addition, I would like to continue my focus on cyber security education and create new programs, especially on integrating cyber technologies with science and engineering projects. I will continue to promote cyber security to diverse groups of people especially through our newly established Center for Engaging Women in Cyber Security as part of our institute. More importantly, I want to make sure that my team members receive some of the prestigious awards that I have received. I strongly believe that it is important to transition our successful cyber security institute to the next generation of cyber security scientists.”

If you would like to read more about Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham click the link to read the article titled, “Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham Delivers the Inaugural Grace Series Lecture


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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