Illinois Computer Science Adds Talented New Faculty

9/17/2018 4:11:03 PM

The Illinois Department of Computer Science welcomes five new faculty who will join its growing family of talented researchers and educators over the next year.

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The Illinois Department of Computer Science welcomes five new faculty who will join its growing family of talented researchers and educators over the next year.

Since 2013, 40 new faculty have joined Illinois Computer Science, bolstering its commitment to providing the best computer science education in the country and ensuring the continued strength of its wide-ranging and groundbreaking research.

Our new faculty will enhance the experience our students receive in the classroom – two are teaching assistant professors – and build on the department’s excellence in the research lab.

Abdussalam Alawini, Teaching Assistant Professor

Abdussalam Alawini’s research has focused on data citation and provenance for data analytics systems, work he plans to continue at Illinois. B
Teaching Assistant Professor Abdussalam Alawini
Teaching Assistant Professor Abdussalam Alawini
ut Alawani has also long been deeply involved in teaching, with 14 years of experience ranging from introductory computer science lab courses to graduate-level instruction. He calls himself a data-science enthusiast.

As a graduate student at Portland State University, he developed algorithms that use machine learning and relational database profiling techniques to discover relationships among file-based scientific datasets.

And, most recently, as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Alawani led the development of CiteDB. It is a framework for automating data citation across a variety of databases types.

Alawani also plans to pursue educational research focused on developing new methods to improve the student experience and participation in large classrooms. He is proud of what he calls his informal role in developing courses for the new Data Science master's program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Alawini received a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Tripoli in 2002, and earned a master's degree and PhD in Computer Science from Portland State University in 2011 and 2016, respectively.


Dakshita Khurana, Assistant Professor

Dakshita Khurana’s research focuses on the design of cryptographic protocols with provable security against attacks, laying the foundations for the prevention of coordinated or man-in-the-middle attacks and building variants of zero-knowledge proof systems.
Assistant Professor Dakshita Khurana
Assistant Professor Dakshita Khurana

At Illinois, Khurana says she is excited to continue pushing the boundaries of what cryptography can achieve, building stronger foundations fo applied security. She is plans to explore connections between cryptography and other areas such as complexity and learning theory.

Khurana earned her PhD from UCLA in 2018 and earlier completed her bachelor’s degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

Her research was recognized with a SICOMP FOCS 2017 Special Issue Invitation, a UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, the UCLA CS Outstanding Graduating Doctoral Student Award, and the Cisco and Symantec Outstanding Graduate Student Research Awards.

She will join Illinois in the fall of 2019 after doing postdoctoral research at Microsoft Research New England.

Lawrence Rauchwerger, Professor

Lawrence Rauchwerger’s primary research interests are parallel and distributed programming environ
Professor Lawrence Rauchwerger
Lawrence Rauchwerger
ments, and compilers and architectures for parallel and distributed computing. His approach to auto-parallelization, thread-level speculation, and parallel code development has influenced industrial products at corporations such as IBM, Intel and Sun.

Lawrence will join Illinois Computer Science in August 2019 from Texas A&M University, where he is the Eppright Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and co-director of the Parasol Lab.

Lawrence is also a graduate of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois, earning his PhD here in 1995. Earlier he received an Engineer degree from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest, and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

Ling Ren, Assistant Professor

Ling Ren’s focus is on computer security and cryptography, with the ultimate goal of designing algorithms, protocols, and systems that have both rigorou
Assistant Professor Ling Ren
Assistant Professor Ling Ren
s security guarantees and practical efficiency.

A recent PhD graduate, Ren focused on two areas while earning his degree. He worked first on Oblivious RAM, a cryptographic tool that protects user privacy in cloud storage and privacy-preserving computation. He designed algorithms for the tool and built them into secure processors.

More recently, Ren focused on consensus protocols, improving both their efficiency and fairness as they relate to cryptocurrencies.

Ren received his bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University and his master’s and, this year, his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He will spend a year at VMware Research as a postdoctoral researcher before joinng Illinois Computer Science in the fall 2019.

David Varodayan, Teaching Assistant Professor

David Varodayan joins the faculty from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where he served as a lecturer since 2013 and Undergraduate Academic Advisor since 2014.
Teaching Assistant Professor David Varodayan
Teaching Assistant Professor David Varodayan

Varodayan started Merit discussion sections in the Introduction to Computing and Introduction to Electronics that he taught, challenging small groups with problems designed to extend concepts taught in class to applications. The goal is to increase student engagement and retention.

Varodayan holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Toronto and master’s and PhD degrees from Stanford University.

At Illinois, he has won the George Anner Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and the Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award, and has appeared on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent every semester he has taught since Spring 2015.

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This story was published September 17, 2018.