SMU Lyle to offer first-of-its-kind graduate degree in datacenter systems engineering

Marc Christensen

SMU Lyle to offer first-of-its-kind graduate degree in datacenter systems engineering

Stock photo of an engineer in a datacenter's server farmSMU’s Lyle School of Engineering has created a new Master of Science in datacenter systems engineering, the first of its kind in the United States. The first students in this multidisciplinary program will be admitted for the Fall 2014 term.

The program is open to full-time and part-time graduate students, and is available on the Dallas campus as well as through the Lyle School’s distance education program. Enrollment is expected from current professionals in industry and government, as well as undergraduates in engineering, science, mathematics and business preparing to enter the field for the first time.

At least four million workers currently are associated with datacenter operations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and the number is expected to increase by 800,000 in 2016, and by an additional 2 million by 2018.  Approximately 70 percent of these workers will have Bachelor’s degrees or higher.

“Our society has become intimately linked to a variety of digital networks including social media, search engines, e-commerce, gaming and big data,” said Lyle Dean Marc Christensen. “Data center design is a fascinating challenge due to the millions of dollars lost per second of outage. The proper management and design of these datacenters require a diverse combination of highly specialized skills, and SMU Lyle is uniquely positioned to offer a degree that will connect all the needed technical disciplines.”

The new degree is built around five core courses that address the industry broadly, while offering elective specializations in three technical areas:

  • Facilities, infrastructure and subsystems
  • Datasystems engineering and analytics
  • Computer networks, virtualization, security and cloud computing

The program is directed toward preparing professionals for a leadership role in the field, whether specifically as a technical contributor or more broadly in management. The degree is designed to build a solid foundation for continued professional growth consistent with modern datacenter engineering practices and the changes that lie ahead for the industry.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read the full story from SMU News

March 7, 2014|News|

$7.75 million gift will create cyber security institute in SMU Lyle

Darwin Deason

Darwin Deason

A $7.75 million gift from Darwin Deason, founder of Affiliated Computer Services, will launch the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and support the Deason Innovation Gym in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

Deason’s gift provides a $5 million endowment, as well as $1.25 million in operational funding, for the new institute, headed by renowned cyber security expert Fred Chang. Formerly research director at the National Security Agency (NSA), Chang joined SMU in fall 2013 as the inaugural Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security with the goal of creating the Institute that now bears Deason’s name.

The gift provides another $1.5 million to support the operation of the Innovation Gym, also named in honor of the Deason family. The Innovation Gym is a facility in which students are immersed into a fast-paced environment to solve engineering problems.

“This support immediately positions the Lyle School to make significant contributions to the science of cyber security,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Darwin Deason’s generous gift of operational funding, in addition to the endowment, allows the Institute to begin addressing critical cyber security issues from day one, advancements that will have an impact far beyond our campus nationally and globally.”

“Darwin Deason’s gift will support important research and education across a broad spectrum of student involvement,” said Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen. “The institute will attract the best minds to address the threats of cyber crime and cyber terrorism. The Innovation Gym helps develop young minds, turning students loose to solve real-world problems under tight deadlines, overcoming intermediate failures as they learn to innovate. By supporting the institute, this gift recognizes the importance of research at the highest level to solve a global challenge. By funding the Innovation Gym, the gift helps to develop the next generation of innovators equipped to solve emerging problems.”

Deason is the founder of Affiliated Computer Systems, launched in 1988 to handle business processes for clients such as E-ZPass, 7-Eleven, United Parcel Service (UPS), the City of Dallas and numerous state and federal agencies. Serving in a variety of executive positions, including as chairman of the board and CEO, Deason took the company public in 1994 and sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010.

Previously, Deason worked for the data-processing firm MTech, where he was promoted to CEO at the age of 29. Before joining MTech, Deason worked in data processing for Gulf Oil in Tulsa, having started there as a mail clerk.

“My business career was built on technology services, so clearly the issue of cyber security is something I take very seriously,” Deason said. “The work of the institute will have a far-reaching impact, spanning retail, defense, technology, healthcare, energy, government, finance and transportation – everything that makes our world work.”

Several members of Deason’s family have SMU connections: Deason’s son, Doug, is married to Holly, who is an alumna. Doug’s son, Preston, and Holly’s daughter, Fallon, both currently attend SMU.

The gift counts toward SMU’s Second Century Campaign, which has received more than $800 million toward a $1 billion goal to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign continues to work toward raising the number of endowed faculty positions at the University to 110; raising the number of endowed student scholarships to 500; and completing 15 major campus facilities.

Written by Kim Cobb

> Read the full story from SMU News

January 30, 2014|News|

Tune In: Dean Marc Christensen on KERA’s ‘Think’ Jan. 29, 2014

Marc Christensen, dean of Lyle School of Engineering at SMUMarc Christensen, dean of SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, will be part of a distinguished panel discussing the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education on KERA 90.1 FM Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Christensen will join Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Cameron Evans and Kristin Larimore, strategic engagement leader with GE Capital Equipment Finance, on “Think with Krys Boyd” during the noon-1 p.m. hour.

Christensen is a DARPA Young Faculty Award winner and has been recognized at SMU with the Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowship and the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award.

Listen live at kera.org/listen

January 29, 2014|Faculty in the News, For the Record, News, Tune In|

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

September 6, 2013|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

May 1, 2013|For the Record, News|
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