Homa Alemzadeh receives Carter PhD Dissertation Award in Dependability
Homa Alemzadeh, a CSL alumna who graduated with her PhD in electrical and computer engineering in February 2016, has been awarded the Carter PhD Dissertation Award in Dependability, a prestigious award that is given annually by the IEEE Technical Committee and IFIP Working Group 10.4 on Dependable Computing and Fault Tolerance to one new Ph.D. graduate worldwide who has made significant contribution to the field of dependable computing through her PhD dissertation research.
Alemzadeh’s thesis, “Data-driven resiliency assessment of medical cyber-physical systems,” was selected from 15 nominations, and she conducted this work in the DEPEND research group, advised by CSL and ECE Professor Ravi Iyer.“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Alemzadeh. “Specifically because it is named after William Carter, who is known in the dependable computing and fault tolerance community for taking great interest in the future of the field and reaching out to younger colleagues and promoting their work. The William C. Carter Award is intended to carry on his legacy, so this is especially important and inspiring to me as I have just started my career in academia, where I get to work closely with students.”
After she graduated, Alemzadeh joined the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia as an assistant professor in January 2017, after spending almost a year at IBM Research. At UVA, she is part of Link Lab, a new interdisciplinary center—much like CSL—that is focused on education and research in cyber-physical systems (CPS).
In her first semester, she taught a course on dependable computing, and she also recently received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for developing next generation first responder technology that will improve safety in emergency medical response.
“I think working in Ravi’s group at CSL was instrumental in getting me where I am today,” said Alemzadeh. “At Illinois, I got involved in very interesting projects with real societal impact and got to work with great colleagues and external collaborators from multiple disciplines, ranging from medicine and surgery to robotics and mechanical engineering.”
While at Illinois, Alemzadeh worked on safety control structures in order to make robotic surgery—an increasingly popular practice in the medical field—safer and more reliable. To do this, she first analyzed data on past safety incidents of medical devices to determine the most prominent causes of device failures and their impact on patients.
With this groundwork, she assessed how resilient the surgical robots were to unsafe scenarios or systems failures, and finally, she designed more resilient systems by creating protocols for real-time detection and mitigation against safety hazards, as well as techniques and tools to validate the system’s safety in case of accidental failures and malicious attacks.
“The course of my research and PhD was a unique journey with many up and downs but also fun,” said Alemzadeh. “I am very grateful to my advisers Ravi Iyer and Zbigniew Kalbarczyk for encouraging me to pursue exciting new directions, giving me the courage to put forward controversial ideas, and teaching me how to become an independent researcher and an effective teacher.”