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SMU students share their research at SMU Research Day 2018

SMU Research Day 2018 featured posters and abstracts from 160 student entrants who have participated this academic year in faculty-led research, pursued student-led projects, or collaborated on team projects with graduate students and faculty scientists.

SMU strongly encourages undergraduate students to pursue research projects as an important component of their academic careers, while mentored or working alongside SMU graduate students and faculty.

Students attack challenging real-world problems, from understanding the world’s newest particle, the Higgs Boson, or preparing mosasaur fossil bones discovered in Angola, to hunting for new chemical compounds that can fight cancer using SMU’s high performance ManeFrame supercomputer.

A highlight for student researchers is SMU Research Day, organized and sponsored by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies and which was held this year on March 28-29 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

The event gives students the opportunity to foster communication between students in different disciplines, present their work in a professional setting, and share the outstanding research conducted at SMU.

Find out the winners of the poster session from the SMU Office of Graduate Studies.

Culture, Society & Family Researcher news SMU In The News Technology

KERA: 8 Questions For The Government To Consider Before Investigating Encrypted Data

“This debate is quite polarizing; it’s been in the media for a couple of years now. It was quite an accomplishment on our part to agree on a set of facts, to agree on a vocabulary and to agree on the framework.” — Fred Chang, SMU

Journalist Justin Martin with KERA public radio covered the new government guidelines for investigating encrypted data from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Frederick Chang, director of SMU’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and former director of research for the National Security Agency, participated in developing the guidelines.

KERA’s interview, “8 Questions For The Government To Consider Before Investigating Encrypted Data,” aired March 7, 2018.

Chang, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, joined SMU in September 2013 as Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security, computer science and engineering professor and Senior Fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College. The Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security was launched in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering in January 2014, with Chang named as its director.

In addition to his positions at SMU, Chang is a distinguished scholar in the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Chang has been professor and AT&T Distinguished Chair in Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio and he was at the University of Texas at Austin as an associate dean in the College of Natural Sciences and director of the Center for Information Assurance and Security. Additionally, Chang’s career spans service in the private sector and in government including as the former Director of Research at the National Security Agency.

Chang has been awarded the National Security Agency Director’s Distinguished Service Medal and was the 2014 Information Security Magazine ‘Security 7’ award winner for Education. He has served as a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency and as a member of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies. He has also served as a member of the National Academies Committee on Responding to Section 5(d) of Presidential Policy Directive 28: The Feasibility of Software to Provide Alternatives to Bulk Signals Intelligence Collection.

He is the lead inventor on two U.S. patents, and he appeared in the televised National Geographic documentary, Inside the NSA: America’s Cyber Secrets. He has twice served as a cyber security expert witness at hearings convened by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Chang received his B.A. degree from the University of California, San Diego and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Oregon. He has also completed the Program for Senior Executives at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Listen to the KERA radio interview with Justin Martin.


The debate over government access to personal and private information dates back decades. But it took center stage after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, when Apple refused to open a backdoor into an assailant’s encrypted cell phone for FBI investigators.

The agency ultimately paid a hacker to unlock the phone instead.

Now, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has produced a set of guidelines for government agencies to consider before approaching or investigating encrypted data.

To learn more about them, I talked with Frederick Chang, the executive director of Southern Methodist University’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security.

He’s also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and former director of research for the National Security Agency.

Listen to the KERA radio interview with Justin Martin.

Researcher news

Ronald A. Rohrer, Cecil & Ida Green Chair and professor of engineering at SMU Lyle, honored with TAMEST membership

“I’ve stayed close to industry to be a practicing engineer and close to academia to conduct deeper research on hard problems.” — Ronald A. Rohrer.

Legendary inventor and scholar Ronald A. Rohrer, Cecil & Ida Green Chair and Professor of Engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, has been named to The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

The nonprofit organization, founded in 2004, brings together the state’s top scientific, academic and corporate minds to support research in Texas.

The organization builds a stronger identity for Texas as an important destination and hub of achievement in these fields. Members of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the state’s nine Nobel Laureates comprise the 270 members of TAMEST. The group has 18 member institutions, including SMU, across Texas.

Rohrer joins three other distinguished SMU faculty members in TAMEST — Fred Chang, executive director of the Lyle School’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security; Delores Etter, founding director of the Lyle School’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and electrical engineering professor emeritus; and David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Chair and professor of prehistory in anthropology in Dedman College.

Considered one of the preeminent researchers in electronic design automation, Rohrer’s contributions to improving integrated circuit (IC) production have spanned over 50 years. Rohrer realized early on that circuit simulation was crucial to IC design for progress in size reduction and complexity. Among his achievements was introducing a sequence of circuit simulation courses at the University of California, Berkeley, that evolved into the SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) tool, now considered the industry standard for IC design simulation. At Carnegie Mellon University, Rohrer introduced the Asymptotic Waveform Evaluation (AWE) algorithm, which enabled highly efficient timing simulations of ICs containing large numbers of parasitic elements.

“The appointment of Ron Rohrer into TAMEST will increase the visibility of Lyle’s outstanding faculty members,” said Marc P. Christensen, dean of the Lyle School of Engineering.

“Through TAMEST, Rohrer will share his vast knowledge and inspire additional collaborative research relationships with other outstanding Texas professors and universities. This will elevate SMU and the state as a leading center of scholarship and innovation,” Christensen said.

Once an SMU electrical engineering professor back in the late 70’s, Rohrer rejoined the Lyle School as a faculty member in 2017. He is professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon and Rohrer’s career has included roles in academia, industrial management, venture capital, and start-up companies.

“I’ve stayed close to industry to be a practicing engineer and close to academia to conduct deeper research on hard problems,” said Rohrer.

According to Rohrer, one pressing problem is analog integrated circuit design automation, also the name of the project-based research course he’s currently teaching.

“In the analog domain, it’s hard to design a 20-transistor circuit. My goal is to make analog integrated circuit design more accessible to students and industry, especially for our local corporate partners,” he said. “I want to get the ball rolling so younger engineers can keep it moving toward a complete solution.”

Along with his membership in TAMEST and the National Academy of Engineering, Rohrer is an IEEE Life Fellow. His professional service includes several other prominent positions with IEEE, AIEE and U.S. government committees. He is the author and co-author of five textbooks and more than 100 technical papers as well as the holder of six patents. Rohrer has received 11 major awards, including the IEEE Education Medal and the NEC C&C Prize.

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Cyber grad and U.S. Marine Corps vet Michael Taylor proved his mettle as an outstanding student researcher

‘Outstanding student in computer science & engineering’ graduates Dec. 16 with master’s degree and Raytheon ticket to a Ph.D.

Michael Taylor will be the first to tell you that he was not ready for college when he graduated from Plano East High School in 2006. And he’ll also tell you that nobody was more surprised than he was when SMU admitted him in 2014, a little later than the average undergrad.

But Taylor’s disciplined approach to life, honed through five years in the Marine Corps, combined with the intelligence he learned to tap, has earned him a master’s degree from SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering that will be awarded Dec. 16. And after proving his mettle as a student researcher in Lyle’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, Taylor has been awarded the first Raytheon IIS Cyber Elite Graduate Fellowship, which will fund his Ph.D. in quantum computing at SMU and then put him to work as an employee at Raytheon.

“Michael Taylor stood out to me when I first had him in an undergraduate class,” said Mitch Thornton, research director for the Deason Institute and Cecil H. Green Chair of Engineering at SMU. “I could sense there was something special about him and that he had a lot of talent. I actively encouraged Michael to do research with me and he has excelled in everything I have asked him to work on. He is a credit to the student body of SMU’s Lyle School, and a credit to the nation.”

Taylor learned to focus on the details in the Marine Corps. He had sampled community college very briefly after high school, but it didn’t stick. He knew he didn’t have skills to trade for a decent job, so joining the Marine Corps made sense to him.

“Honestly? In retrospect, I wasn’t ready for school,” Taylor acknowledged.

After the Marines, finally ready for college
Taylor’s dad was an SMU engineering alumnus, and this was not the career path he’d envisioned for his son. But it’s funny how things work themselves out. Taylor completed Marine basic training, and took an aptitude test to determine where his skills might fit the Marine Corp mission. He did very, very well.

“My score on that test – I qualified for every enlisted job in the Marine Corps,” Taylor said. “I got to pick what job I wanted.” Working as a calibration technician sounded interesting – a job that would require him to conduct testing for proper operation of a wide range of mechanical and electronic devices and tools. But before working in calibration, he’d have to go school for a year.

“Ironic, I know,” Taylor said, smiling. “I had to sign up for an extra year, so I ended up doing a five-year tour in the Marines.”

He spent most of that time working out of Camp Pendleton in California, but was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from March through September 2010, at the height of the surge of U.S. troops. “I wasn’t a combat guy,” Taylor said. “But even on base, sometimes, the rockets would come in the middle of the night.”

Nearing the end of his enlistment in 2012, Taylor was getting the hard sell to stay in and make the Marines a career. By now, he had decided he was ready for college, but the career planner he met with tried hard to talk him out of it, predicting that Taylor would “fail again.”

“He actually told me if I got out of the Marine Corps and went back to college, I’d end up living under a bridge,” Taylor said, shaking his head. It just made him more determined to succeed.

He started back at community college, and this experience was very different. “It seemed like it was so hard the first time,” Taylor said. “What then seemed like a monumental task, now seemed like nothing. I started thinking, I might be able to do school, now.”

And he started thinking about SMU. Taylor’s grades at Collin County Community College were good – good enough to get him into his father’s alma mater.

SMU Prof’s mentoring made all the difference
Taylor never dared to think he could live up to what his Dad had accomplished, starting with the scholarship to attend SMU that Jim Taylor ’89 had received from Texas Instruments. “He was a technician there,” Taylor recalled, “and they paid for him to come here. As a kid, if you’d told me I could do something like that, too, I’d never have believed you. For me there was Albert Einstein, and Jim Taylor.”

Michael Taylor came to the Hilltop on the GI Bill, and SMU’s Yellow Ribbon program for military veterans covered what the GI Bill didn’t. Then, the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security picked up the cost of his master’s degree.

Taylor’s first semester at SMU’s Lyle School was a tough adjustment after his relatively easy path at community college, but that class with professor Thornton his second semester changed everything. “Dr. Thornton offered me a position working in the Deason Institute for Cyber Security,” Taylor said. “It’s been going great since then.”

Thornton’s influence and mentoring made all the difference for Taylor.

“If I had not met Dr. Thornton, there were times I wondered if I would have gotten my bachelor’s degree. I definitely wouldn’t be getting the master’s degree. And a Ph.D. wouldn’t have been something I ever considered.”

Compelled to dive into quantum computing and cyber security
Taylor was interested in computer hardware when he arrived at SMU, but the Deason Institute opened the door to the contributions he could make in cyber security. He received the Lyle School’s 2017 Rick A. Barrett Memorial Award for outstanding work in computer science and engineering. And as he neared the completion of his master’s degree, he was tapped for the Raytheon Cyber Elite Graduate Fellowship and is looking forward to pursuing his Ph.D. in quantum computing.

“Quantum computers solve problems that are too difficult for classical computers to solve,” Taylor said. “Certain problems in classical computation are intractable, there’s no way you can solve them in this lifetime. It’s only a matter of time before quantum computers render all encryption obsolete.”

For Fred Chang, executive director of SMU’s Deason Institute and former research director for the National Security Agency (NSA), finding talented students like Taylor to fill the gaps in the cyber security workforce is “job one.” Chang testified before a congressional subcommittee in September that we are likely facing a worldwide shortage of cyber security workers five years from now.

“Today’s students will be responsible for designing, creating, operating, maintaining and defending tomorrow’s cyber infrastructure,” Chang explained. “We need a large and capable pool of folks to staff these positions for the future.”

For Taylor, cyber security is just plain compelling.

“I just like the challenge. There’s somebody out there that’s trying to crack what you have, to break you down. You have to be smarter than them. It’s a game!” — Kim Cobb, SMU

Learning & Education Researcher news SMU In The News Technology Uncategorized

Dallas Innovates: SMU, UTA Profs Named National Academy of Inventors Fellows

Election as a National Academy of Inventors fellow is the highest professional honor given to academic inventors.

Dallas Innovates covered the naming of Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering Professor Bruce Gnade as a Fellow to the National Academy of Inventors.

Journalist Lance Murray noted that SMU’s Gnade holds 77 U.S. patents and 55 foreign patents, and is the author or co-author of more than 195 refereed journal articles. Currently, his research focuses on flexible electronics with applications ranging from radiation sensors to microelectronic arrays for cellular recording.

The Dallas Innovates article, “SMU, UTA Profs Named National Academy of Inventors Fellows,” published Dec. 12, 2017.

Read the full story.


By Lance Murray
Dallas Innovates

Bruce Gnade, executive director of the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership and clinical professor within Southern Methodist University’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, and Dereje Agonafer, Jenkins Garrett professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington received the honors.

The professors were included in a group of 155 fellows nationwide named Tuesday by the academy.

Election as NAI Fellow is given to academic inventors who have shown a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.

NAI fellows are named as inventors on U.S. patents, and are nominated by their peers based on their contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.

SMU’s Gnade holds 77 U.S. patents and 55 foreign patents, and is the author or co-author of more than 195 refereed journal articles. Currently, his research focuses on flexible electronics with applications ranging from radiation sensors to microelectronic arrays for cellular recording, according to SMU.

Prior to joining SMU, Gnade held leadership positions at Texas Instruments and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he served as a program manager overseeing influential technology research projects for the Department of Defense. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

His academic career includes faculty appointments at the University of Maryland, the University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Gnade is a member of the Materials Research Society and the Society for Information Display, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Read the full story.