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ECE announces two 2017 Outstanding Thesis Research Award Winners

Thursday, February 23, 2017

L to R: Ibrahim Issa and Ji Kim

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Graduate Committee is pleased to announce two co-winners of the 2017 ECE Outstanding Thesis Research Award, Ibrahim Issa, an advisee of Professor Aaron Wagner, and Ji Kim, an advisee of Professor Christopher Batten.

Nominated by their respective thesis advisers, Issa and Kim stood out among a large pool of candidates with many strong submissions.

Issa is interested in communication security from an information-theory viewpoint. “The timing of certain events, such as the timings of subsequent transmissions and their duration, can reveal information about the data being communicated,” he said. “This is particularly damaging when the data in question is sensitive. When that happens, two important questions arise: how much information is being leaked? And how can we prevent this?”

His thesis introduces a new information-theoretic and operationally defined measure that he calls “maximal leakage,” which can be subsequently used to study and design mechanisms to prevent information leakage for communication security.

Issa received a B.E. in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut in 2012. He was awarded the Jacobs Fellowship in 2012/2013. He has been working under Associate Professor Aaron Wagner since 2013.

Kim uses a vertically integrated research methodology to rethink both the software and hardware in future computing systems. More specifically, he has focused on new computer chip designs that are specialized for specific classes of applications. "Software developers want to use specialized hardware to improve performance and efficiency, but they do not want to rewrite their application from scratch," Kim said.

His thesis proposes a new approach that enables developers to begin with a standard task-parallel application for multicore processors, and then to automatically map this application to a novel loop-task accelerator platform. This new platform can potentially improve the programmability, portability, and performance of an important class of emerging applications.

Kim received his Ph.D. from Cornell Engineering in 2016, and he is now a hardware engineer at Google. He was awarded the ECE Director's PhD TA Award (2012), an NDSEG Fellowship (2012-2015), and a Cornell University Fellowship (2010). He received both his BSE and MSE from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. He worked under Associate Professor Christopher Batten from 2010 through 2016.

The ECE Graduate Committee reviews submissions and the ECE Director of Graduate Studies oversees the process. The two Cornell ECE Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Research Award co-winners will share a $3,000 prize and receive engraved plaques.

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