Marc Christensen

National expert to lead broad cybersecurity initiative at SMU

Fred ChangFrederick R. Chang, a recognized national expert in cyber security, has joined SMU to develop a multidisciplinary program aimed at tackling the most pressing cyber challenges facing individuals, business and government today.

Chang, whose career includes leadership positions in academia, business, and in government at the National Security Agency, is the new Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security. The position is made possible by a financial commitment from SMU trustee and longtime benefactor Bobby B. Lyle, for whom SMU’s engineering school is named.

> More about Fred Chang from SMU News

SMU’s first Centennial Distinguished Chair provides a faculty position endowed at $2.5 million, plus start-up funding of $1 million for the first five years to provide immediate support for the position and related research. The establishment of a Centennial endowment is available only to donors during the SMU Centennial commemoration, March 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2015.

In addition to holding the Lyle Chair, Chang also will be a professor of computer science in the Lyle School of Engineering and a senior fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His appointments to positions in both the Lyle School and Dedman College reflect the interdisciplinary approach he believes is key to effective cyber research.

“Economic and national security are bedrock issues for our country,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Dr. Chang is prepared to take advantage of the University’s commitment to education, research and dialogue to deal with these critical issues, and will bring to the table students and faculty in all disciplines to find solutions. We are delighted to welcome him to SMU, where our students fully expect to be world changers.”

Network World: Cybercrime service automates creation of fake IDs, other verification documents

Chang has aggressive objectives to:

  • Conduct broad programs of research aimed both at creating a science of cyber security and addressing national cyber security priorities.
  • Apply an interdisciplinary approach to challenging problems, incorporating elements from disciplines not traditionally associated with cyber security such as law, business and the social sciences.
  • Help close the skills gap in cyber security by educating and tapping the innovation capabilities of SMU students to meet the demand for trained cyber professionals.

“Professor Chang arrives at SMU Lyle at an important moment,” said Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen. “The impact of cyber crime and cyber terrorism cannot be overstated. As Professor Chang joins SMU Lyle to lead our already strong cyber security researchers, he is poised to make a notable difference in this arena. We will be educating a generation of SMU graduates who understand the complexities of cyber-related issues whether their degree is in computer science or philosophy.  These students will be better suited to live, work, and play in the modern interconnected world.”

Chang served as the director of research at the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2005-06, where he was awarded the NSA Director’s Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, he has held several senior executive positions at SBC Communications, prestigious positions at both the University Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio, and was most recently president and chief operating officer of 21CT Inc., an advanced intelligence analytics solutions company in Austin.

Learn more about Dr. Chang’s CV

“Dr. Chang’s experience at the highest levels of government, industry, and academia has given him a unique perspective on the cyber security landscape,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “He has influenced the national dialogue and policies on cyber security through his work at the NSA, his testimony before congressional committees, and his presence on academic and industrial advisory boards as well as his peer journal editorial board work. He will continue that influence at SMU.”

“It is an honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to join SMU at this crucial time in the evolution of cyber security,” Chang said. “From the Lyle School of Engineering, to the Tower Center for Political Studies and across campus, I feel a tremendous sense of chemistry and collegiality here. There is also a sense of urgency, purpose and mission that is especially appealing. To be part of this is tremendously exciting to me.”

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read more of this story from SMU News

Marc Christensen named dean of Lyle School of Engineering

Marc Christensen

Marc Christensen, SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Engineering Innovation, has been named dean of the University’s Lyle School of Engineering, effective immediately. He has served as the school’s interim dean since July 2012.

Marc Christensen, a nationally recognized leader in photonics – the science and technology of light – has been named dean of SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Christensen, 41, has served as interim dean in the Lyle School since July 1, 2012, and assumes the new position immediately.

“Dr. Christensen has been setting a strong example of collaborative leadership, innovative research and commitment to students since he began his career at the Lyle School in 2002,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “That he has become dean in little more than a decade is testament to both his achievements and his high expectations for the Lyle School and for himself. He is well-equipped to lead the Lyle School as it continues its rise to prominence.”

“Marc is highly regarded in the Lyle School, across the campus and in the scientific community,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “He is personally immersed in the innovative education style that is the Lyle School’s signature, and has solidified the Lyle School’s academic offerings and research footprint as interim dean. We congratulate him in his new role.“

Christensen will continue as the engineering school’s Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Engineering Innovation and as a research professor in the Department of Physics in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

“I am excited about the opportunity to serve as dean of the Lyle School at this critical juncture,” Christensen said, “and I am proud of the quality of our faculty, the dedication of our staff, and the poise and creativity of our students. SMU-Lyle is making a difference – preparing our students to be innovative leaders, engaging them in our classrooms, our research labs and our community. We will support SMU’s pursuit of excellence in graduate and undergraduate programs while maintaining a strategic focus on the research enterprise, and I look forward to collaborating with the other fine schools across SMU’s campus.”

Christensen received his Bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Cornell University. He received his Master’s degree in electrical engineering and his Ph.D. in electrical computer engineering at George Mason University. He also is a graduate of the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education Management Development Program.

Christensen is a recognized leader in mapping photonic technology onto varied applications. In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) identified him as a “rising star in microsystems research” and selected him to be one of the first DARPA Young Faculty Award recipients.

From 1991-1998, while pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees, Christensen was a staff member and technical leader in BDM’s Sensors and Photonics group (now part of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems). In 1997, he co-founded Applied Photonics, a free-space optical interconnection module company.

Joining SMU in 2002, Christensen served as chair of the Electrical Engineering Department from 2007-12.

In 2008, Christensen was recognized at SMU for outstanding research with the Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowship, and in 2011 he was recognized for outstanding and innovative teaching as a recipient of the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award.

Christensen has co-authored more than 100 journal and conference papers. He has two patents in the field of free space optical interconnections, one patent pending in the field of integrated photonics, and four pending in the field of computational imaging.

> Visit SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering online

CTE to discuss ‘Higher Ed in the Crosshairs’ Feb. 22, 2013

Concerns about the costs and value of higher education are rising to the top of debate from the kitchen table to Capitol Hill.

In response, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence has organized a symposium to explore questions of government support, online competition and the perceived marketability of a university degree.

“Higher Ed in the Crosshairs” takes place from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22 in the Hughes-Trigg Lower Level. The symposium will examine the extent to which high-quality teaching – especially at a place like SMU – can answer critiques about the costs and benefits associated with a bachelor’s degree.

Register online at SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence homepage

Participants will also explore the questions of what and how colleges and universities should be teaching students, and how they can demonstrate the results of what happens in the classroom and on campus.

CTE Director Beth Thornburg will provide opening and closing remarks. Speakers and topics include:

  • Dean Albert Niemi, Cox School of Business, on “Valuing Higher Education”
  • Dean William Tsutsui, Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, on “Preserving the American Character Through Liberal Education”
  • Associate Provost Linda Eads on “Responding to How People Learn,” with panelists including Professors Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning; Miguel Quiñones, Organizational Behavior; Maria Dixon Hall, Communication Studies; and Patty Wisian-Neilson, Chemistry
  • Dean ad interim Marc Christensen, Lyle School of Engineering, on “Using Technology to Enhance Learning,” with panelists including Professors Paul Krueger, Mechanical Engineering; Lynne Stokes, Statistical Science; Scott Norris, Mathematics; and Jake Batsell, Journalism
  • Dean José Bowen, Meadows School of the Arts, on “Demonstrating Our Value,” with panelists including Professors Michael McLendon, Education Policy and Leadership; and Paige Ware, Teaching and Education; and Assistant Provost Tony Tillman

The CTE has created an Xtranormal text-to-movie animated video about the symposium and the issues it tackles. Click the YouTube screen to watch it, or visit this link to see “Henny Penny & Ducky Lucky Discuss Challenges to Academia” in a new windowvideo

> Get a mobile guide to the “Higher Ed in the Crosshairs” program

James Webb named director of Lyle Engineering’s M.S.M. program

James R. Webb has been named director of the Master of Science in Manufacturing Systems Management (MSM) degree program in SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. He succeeds Donald Price, retired industry professor of mechanical engineering at SMU and former Principal Engineering Fellow at Raytheon Electronic Systems.

In making the announcement, Lyle Dean ad interim Marc Christensen said, “Jim’s appointment reaffirms the school’s support for the continuing resurgence of manufacturing in America. As a highly experienced engineer and businessman, as well as an excellent teacher, he is the perfect choice to address this opportunity and need for knowledge.”

An adjunct engineering professor at SMU for six years, Webb is a strategist with the Department of Defense and has held numerous management and engineering positions, including senior manager in the manufacturing strategy consulting practice of Deloitte, senior manager in AT&T’s international e-commerce initiative, and VP/engineering for Hamilton Tool Company. He also served as a research engineer with Texas Instruments on the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative.

Webb holds a B.S. degree in engineering and applied science from West Point, an M.S. from SMU, and an M.B.A. from the University of Dallas. He is pursuing a doctorate from the University of Maryland.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read the full story
> Visit SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering online

Christensen to serve as interim Engineering Dean as of July 1, 2012

Marc ChristensenMarc Christensen has agreed to serve as dean ad interim of SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering effective July 1, 2012. He will serve an initial appointment that ends in August 2013.

Christensen is the school’s Bobby B. Lyle Professor in Engineering Innovation and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering. He also holds an appointment as a research associate professor in the Department of Physics in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He began his SMU career in 2002.

In addition, Christensen serves as faculty representative to SMU’s Second Century Campaign.

“In my discussions with faculty, staff and students of the Lyle School, Marc received great support for this new role,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “I’m sure that you will join me in working with Marc to ensure the continued success of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.”

>  Visit the Lyle School of Engineering online

CTE names 2011-13 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors

SMU's Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors, 2011-13Four of SMU’s best teachers have been named 2011-13 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors by the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. This year’s honorees are Marc Christensen, Electrical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; Alyce McKenzie, Homiletics, Perkins School of Theology; David Son, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Greg Warden, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts.

The new members of SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers will join returning members Johan Elverskog, Religious Studies, Dedman College; Randall Griffin, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts; Roy Heller, Old Testament, Perkins School of Theology; and Donald VandeWalle, Management and Organizations, Cox School of Business.

Each year since 2001, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Awards recognize four SMU faculty members for their commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning. “These are faculty whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own discipline,” according to the CTE website. “They represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education.” The professorships are named for SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler.

Each recipient receives a $10,000 award and membership in SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers for the two years of their appointment as Altshuler Professors. Members participate actively with other members of the Academy to address issues in classroom teaching.

Above, the new Altshuler Professors were honored by the SMU Board of Trustees during its May 2011 meeting (left to right): SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Greg Warden, David Son, Alyce McKenzie, Marc Christensen and SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler.

(more…)

Marc Christensen named Bobby B. Lyle Professor in Engineering Innovation

Marc Christensen, SMU's Bobby B. Lyle Professor in Engineering InnovationSMU’s Lyle School of Engineering has appointed Marc P. Christensen to its Bobby B. Lyle Professorship in Engineering Innovation. He is the first professor to be named to the recently established chair.

Christensen came to SMU from industry as the co-founder of Applied Photonics Inc., a Washington, D.C. area-based company focusing on the development of a new method in multi-scale optical design. Since arriving at the University, he has served as chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, providing leadership to the faculty while pursuing greater departmental productivity in research.

“Marc is one of our most valued and inspiring classroom instructors, a true innovative engineer, and an extraordinary researcher continuously striving to create novel solutions for challenging problems on the forefront of engineering and science,” says Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “His co-development of the SMU Innovation Gymnasium ‘Innovation Fridays’ lecture series and his central role in the redesign of our first-year engineering experience are just two examples of how his entrepreneurial spirit, intellect and energy continue to motivate young engineers.”

Dr. Christensen has been awarded several optoelectronic design patents, with several more pending. In addition to his scholarship, he has written numerous articles for engineering journals and serves as an invited guest speaker at many conferences. He has also contributed to or been featured in articles that have appeared in Wired Magazine, Discovery Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

Among his honors for teaching and research are the 2004 SEJC Electrical Engineering Department Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award, the 2007 SMU Golden Mustang Award, the 2007 DARPA Young Faculty Award, the 2008 Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowship, and the 2010 SEJC Electrical Engineering Department Outstanding Professor Award.

Christensen earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics at Cornell University in 1993. He received his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1998 and his Ph.D. in electrical and computing engineering in 2001, both from George Mason University.

Research Spotlight: The $5.6 million man

Stock photo of a conceptual robotic hand, transparent to show circuitryLightning-fast connections between robotic limbs and the human brain may be within reach for injured soldiers and other amputees with the establishment of a multimillion-dollar research center led by SMU engineers.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Defense initiative dedicated to audacious challenges and intense time schedules, the Neurophotonics Research Center will develop two-way fiber optic communication between prosthetic limbs and peripheral nerves. This connection will be key to operating realistic robotic arms, legs and hands that not only move like the real thing, but also “feel” sensations like pressure and heat.

Successful completion of the fiber optic link will allow for sending signals seamlessly back and forth between the brain and artificial limbs, allowing amputees revolutionary freedom of movement and agility.

Partners in the Neurophotonics Research Center also envision man-to-machine applications that extend far beyond prosthetics, leading to medical breakthroughs like brain implants for the control of tremors, neuro-modulators for chronic pain management and implants for patients with spinal cord injuries.

The researchers believe their new technologies can ultimately provide the solution to the kind of injury that left actor Christopher Reeve paralyzed after a horse riding accident. “This technology has the potential to patch the spinal cord above and below a spinal injury,” said Marc Christensen, center director and electrical engineering chair in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. “Someday, we will get there.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the $5.6 million center with industry partners as part of its Centers in Integrated Photonics Engineering Research (CIPhER) project, which aims to dramatically improve the lives of the large numbers of military amputees returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Currently available prosthetic devices commonly rely on cables to connect them to other parts of the body for operation – for example, requiring an amputee to clench a healthy muscle in the chest to manipulate a prosthetic hand. The movement is typically deliberate, cumbersome, and far from lifelike.

The goal of the Neurophotonics Research Center is to develop a link compatible with living tissue that will connect powerful computer technologies to the human nervous system through hundreds or even thousands of sensors embedded in a single fiber. Unlike experimental electronic nerve interfaces made of metal, fiber optic technology would not be rejected or destroyed by the body’s immune system.

The center brings together researchers from SMU, Vanderbilt University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas. Its industrial partners include Lockheed Martin (Aculight), Plexon, Texas Instruments, National Instruments and MRRA.

The research builds on the partner universities’ recent advances in light stimulation of individual nerve cells and new, extraordinarily sensitive optical sensors being developed at SMU. Volkan Otugen, SMU site director for the center and Lyle School mechanical engineering chair, has pioneered research on tiny spherical devices that sense the smallest of signals utilizing a concept known as “whispering gallery modes.” A whispering gallery is an enclosed circular or elliptical area, like that found beneath an architectural dome, in which whispers can be heard clearly on the other side of the space.

The ultimate combination of advanced optical nerve stimulation and nerve-sensing technologies will create a complete, two-way interface that does not currently exist. “It will revolutionize the field of brain interfaces,” Christensen said.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read more from the SMU Research blog

Dept. of Defense adds $2 million for Lyle School camera research

PANOPTES concept artSMU research into smart, ultra-slim camera technology has won another $2 million in U.S. Department of Defense funding for 2010, which will allow electrical engineering professor Marc Christensen to explore emerging applications for his “high-tech eyes” for both homeland security and battlefield use.

The DoD has previously funded SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering for development, field-testing and technology transfer for a high-performance small camera system with military applications for small aerial drones and helmet cameras. The new allocation will bring DoD spending on the project to more than $5.5 million.

“This new money will allow us to explore its use for non-cooperative iris recognition systems for homeland security and other defense applications,” Christensen said. “And it will allow us to enhance the camera system to make it capable of active illumination so it can travel into dark places – like caves and urban areas.”

Christensen and a team of graduate and undergraduate students are developing a new generation of camera systems that produce sharp, clear images in a system as flat and as thin as a stack of two credit cards. The technology uses computers to link a series of small, overlapping images produced by dozens of tiny, mirrored lenses to achieve the kind of resolution previously restricted to cameras with large, heavy lenses. The system is called PANOPTES (Processing Arrays of Nyquist-limited Observations to Produce a Thin Electro-optic Sensor) after Greek mythological character Argus Panoptes – a giant sentry with a hundred eyes.

SMU was able to negotiate the additional funding, which President Obama recently approved as part of the Defense Appropriation Bill, with the help of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Christensen will work with Delores Etter, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense who directs the Lyle School’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, to apply the technology to iris recognition systems used for identification purposes.

Read more from SMU News
More on the PANOPTES project from the SMU Reseach blog

Research Spotlight: Tiny cameras with big impact

Panoptes conceptual artIn Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes was a giant sentry with a hundred eyes. In the lab of Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Marc Christensen, Panoptes is a camera technology that combines images from dozens of tiny lenses to focus on a big picture.

Lens performance tends to improve with size, which is why a small cell phone camera can’t produce a very good image. Panoptes uses a computer to combine overlapping images from the small lenses to produce a clear photo without the size and weight of a large lens.

The technology is being developed with funding from the U.S. military for surveillance by small aircraft at low altitudes. The research should eventually provide helmet-mounted surveillance equipment for soldiers on the ground.

Christensen, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, has built a nationally recognized research group in photonics and computational imaging. His work with imaging sensors and micro-mirror arrays has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), among others. In 2007 he received the DARPA Young Faculty Award.

Read more at the SMU Research blog.

In the news:

Danger Room (Wired): DARPA’s smart, flat camera is packed with beady eyes
Unfair Park (Dallas Observer): On the hilltop, SMU prof creating teensy-weensy military camera
Defense News: Sharper image for military surveillance

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