An internationally recognized expert in networks who currently leads an initiative that applies the expertise of 250 researchers across 10 universities in Ireland will lead the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI).

Luiz A. DaSilva, professor of telecommunications at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and director of CONNECT – the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Future Communications and Networks, will join CCI in March 2020 as its inaugural executive director.

At CCI, DaSilva will lead a network of higher education and industry experts to build an ecosystem of cyber-related research, education, and engagement that will position Virginia as a world leader in cybersecurity and cyber-physical systems.

With partnership of both higher education institutions and industry, CCI was established in the 2018-20 Virginia budget, which will invest $20 million annually from 2020 and beyond.

“The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative is an extraordinary venture, and I am pleased and excited to lead this effort with the many academic and corporate partners dedicated to its success,” said DaSilva. “Building trust among all our stakeholders and fostering inter-institution collaborations will be key to the success of CCI, as will articulating the impact of our research, including scientific breakthroughs as well as commercialization success, to foster and maintain economic vitality in Virginia.”

As the director of CONNECT, DaSilva leads a multi-university initiative that produces world-class research in communications and networks; attracts foreign direct investment into the country; and produces intellectual property, human capital, and spin-outs that have made Ireland a leader in information and communications technology. Focused on future networks and communications, CONNECT convenes the expertise of 250 researchers across 10 universities in Ireland and has attracted more than 80 million euro in funding over a six-year period.

“With an international reputation as an expert in wireless networks and experience directing a major research and economic development institute, Luiz is the right person to take the helm at CCI,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “His familiarity with our stakeholders in education, industry, and government will be invaluable in advancing the commonwealth as the nation’s leader in cyber research.”

DaSilva comes to CCI with 21 years of experience in academia, including 17 years in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a professor at Virginia Tech, and has established an international reputation for leadership and innovation in wireless communications and networks research. During his tenure at Trinity College, DaSilva built a large research group.

The search that resulted in DaSilva’s appointment began earlier this year. Stakeholders from across the commonwealth who helped develop the CCI blueprint took active roles on the search committee.

"Selection process for the new CCI director was carefully crafted and executed, which included stakeholders from all CCI nodes,” said Erdem Topsakal, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Virginia Commonwealth University and the director of the Central Virginia Node of CCI. “I am pleased to see that our collaborative efforts resulted in recruiting an internationally recognized cybersecurity expert.”

Through his leadership of CCI, DaSilva will continue to advance a highly connected network that engages institutions of higher education, industry, and government, along with nongovernmental and economic development organizations. CCI will connect regional nodes across the commonwealth, each led by an institution of higher education, which are designed to be vibrant centers of research, learning, and innovation tailored to their local ecosystem.

“We are fortunate to have someone with his skillset,” said Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs at Old Dominion University, director of the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation, a regional node of CCI, and search committee representative. “Few individuals have successfully led multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research centers. Dr. DaSilva has the leadership experience and scholarly background needed to ensure the success of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.”

“Luiz is extremely well qualified to take on the role of executive director of CCI and brings a wealth of experience through his recent role in managing a similar center,” said Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian, vice president for research at the University of Virginia and CCI executive director search committee member. “He will be very effective in positioning Virginia as a world leader in cybersecurity, data analytics, machine learning, and autonomous systems.”

DaSilva is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for his contributions to cognitive networking and to resource management in wireless networks. He pioneered the application of game theory to analyze and design wireless networks, authoring the first book on the topic. DaSilva is also responsible for seminal work on cognitive networking and spectrum and network sharing. He has authored two books, more than 250 peer-reviewed papers, and is a frequent keynote speaker and invited lecturer around the world.

“Luiz has distinguished himself as a leader who can inspire and bring partners together to work toward a common goal, and has a demonstrated record of convening talent and expertise to advance large scale initiatives,” said Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost at Virginia Tech. “His strength of leadership and ability to attract external funding and investment will position CCI for continued success and service to our commonwealth.”

“CCI’s leader will be critical to uniting the network’s existing expertise and attracting new talent to Virginia to power the state’s cyber innovation ecosystem,” said Don Taylor, interim vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. “Luiz is an internationally recognized expert and leader who is well positioned to advance CCI and establish Virginia as a world leader in the cyber domain.”

DaSilva earned his Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas. He is an IEEE Fellow and IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer (2015-18), a Fellow of Trinity College, and a former Virginia Tech College of Engineering Faculty Fellow.