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CS PhD Student Runner-Up for Illinois Innovation Prize

5/8/2015 9:51:00 AM By Colin Robertson, CS @ ILLINOIS

Computer science PhD student Ahmed Khurshid has been recognized as the runner-up for the Illinois Innovation Prize, which was presented by the College of Engineering’s Technology Entrepreneur Center at the campus-wide Entrepreneurship Forum on April 24.  The award recognizes a student “who stands out as a passionate innovator and entrepreneur, who is working with world changing technology and is seen as a role model for others.”

During the award ceremony, Andreas C. Cangellaris, Dean of the College of Engineering, announced that the $20,000 prize would be divided among the three finalists, since the students were each outstanding.  Ritu Raman, a PhD Candidate in Mechanical Science and Engineering, was announced as the 2015 winner and awarded with $15,000 for her work on developing and commercializing 3D printing technologies for applications in biomedical engineering.  Amy Doroff, a senior in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, was awarded $1,500 as the third place finisher for a new process for installing lock collars on combines, developed during her summer internship at John Deere.

CS PhD student Ahmed Khurshid was the runner-up for the 2015 Illinois Innovation Prize.
CS PhD student Ahmed Khurshid was the runner-up for the 2015 Illinois Innovation Prize.
CS PhD student Ahmed Khurshid was the runner-up for the 2015 Illinois Innovation Prize.

Ahmed, who is advised by CS Professor Matthew Caesar, received $3,500 for his research into networked computer systems, where he aims to bring provable security and correctness guarantees to critical infrastructure.  “Being recognized as one of the three finalists for the Illinois Innovation Prize is a great honor for me,” said Ahmed. “I am very happy to be part of a university that so actively encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through this and other initiatives. Competitions like this one make students think out of the box in their research and work hard to make a useful impact in solving challenging issues.”

He is developing tools to validate routing and security properties of a network using a black-box analysis of network behavior, detecting and reacting to vulnerabilities and errors in real-time.  This breakthrough in real-time analysis is possible thanks to the development of novel algorithms by Ahmed and his collaborators that are 100 to 1,000 times faster than conventional formal network analysis methods.  In fact, his paper on real-time network property verification received the best paper award at HotSDN 2012—the flagship workshop for early-stage, highly novel research on software defined networking—and his other papers have appeared in top computer networking conferences like ACM SIGCOMM, USENIX NSDI, and ACM CCS.

Ahmed has been working to commercialize his tools since 2013, when he co-founded Veriflow Systems, Inc. with CS Professors Matthew Caesar and Brighten Godfrey.  Last year, the company, which is headquartered in the University’s Research Park, successfully competed for an NSF Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.

A Fulbright Fellow from Bangladesh, Ahmed plans to complete his thesis this summer and start full-time at Veriflow Systems, continuing his research on network verification.


The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative student on campus.This student is a passionate innovator, working with world changing technology, entrepreneurially minded, and a role model for others.


The Provost’s Roundtable on Entrepreneurship annually holds a campus-wide Entrepreneurship Forum, highlighting the breadth of entrepreneurial activities across campus for faculty, students, and academic professionals. This day-long event allows attendees to learn about topics such as: the Lean Startup Method, How to Fund your Company and the Impact of Social Entrepreneurship. This year’s event was kicked off with a keynote from Mark Tebbe (BS CS ‘83), speaking about Illinois: Tech Force of the Midwest. This was followed by a full day of panel sessions and networking opportunities. CS Professor Steve LaValle was the lunch keynote and spoke about virtual reality challenges, including head tracking, perceptual psychology, and health and safety. Additionally, all finalists of the Cozad New Venture Competition (CNVC) showcased their ideas in the morning, and competed for over $160,000 in funding and in-kind prizes during the final competition that afternoon.  CS graduate student Thomas Reese was one of this year's CNVC winners, for FlipWord, a language learning application.