Computer science welcomes three new assistant professors
March 11, 2021
Three new faculty members have joined the Department of Computer Science this semester in the role of assistant professor, bringing the total number of faculty to nearly 60 at campuses in Blacksburg and the greater Washington, D.C., metro area.
Their research represents emerging strengths in a broad set of strategic areas, including applied cryptography, quantum information, optimization theory, blockchain, secure multiparty computation, and machine learning.
“Our collective future depends on our success to harness technology for global good,” said Julia Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “Last year, we had a banner year, filling 12 positions. This level of hiring is a tremendous boost to the Department of Computer Science and will need to continue to meet our goal at both the undergraduate and graduate level to prepare the next generation of leaders.”
Ali R. Butt, associate department head for faculty development, said the department is dedicated to helping its new colleagues transition to the role of faculty. “Especially this year, we are focusing our mentoring program to help mitigate the many disruptions from the pandemic and give our new faculty a running start,” said Butt.
Assistant professor Thang Hoang joins the department after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and a research associate at the University of South Florida, where he earned his Ph.D. in August 2020.
A self-proclaimed computer enthusiast, Hoang’s research focuses on broad aspects of applied cryptography, blockchain, and secure multiparty computation. He is also interested in developing new techniques to improve the privacy and security of data analytics platforms.
Hoang is teaching a graduate-level blockchain course this spring, which is part of the department’s Blockchain That Serves initiative.
“My main goal is to establish a strong cybersecurity research lab to attract students and researchers around the world to come to study and do research at Virginia Tech,” said Hoang. “I am eager to work with students regarding their research projects related to cybersecurity and help them achieve their career goals.”
Assistant Professor Ismini Lourentzou said she was drawn to Virginia Tech because her core values align with the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). She was equally impressed with the growth in data science and machine learning research, with the development of the Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, and the work of the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence & Data Analytics.
Lourentzou most recently served as a research scientist at IBM Almaden Research Center, working on machine learning, natural language processing, and information retrieval problems. She earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She is teaching a course on Data Challenges in Machine Learning for the spring semester, which explores recent machine learning advances that address data challenges, such as learning with limited and imperfect supervision, as well as low-resource scenarios.
“I am also very excited that I will get to teach, mentor, and work with the diverse set of brilliant Virginia Tech students,” said Lourentzou. She said she is also looking forward to the faculty mentorship opportunities provided by senior faculty members in the department.
The department’s solid reputation in research and the high success rate of faculty obtaining NSF CAREER awards, which currently stands at 16, was an important factor for Lourentzou.
Jamie Sikora joins the department as an assistant professor after studying at the Centre for Quantum Technologies and Université Paris VII. His research interests are in quantum information, cryptography, and optimization theory. He is teaching quantum computation this semester and is posting the lectures on his website for anyone interested in the subject.
“I am most looking forward to working with graduate students and colleagues in the department, and also to realize the goals of the university’s quantum initiatives by collaborating with other colleges and departments,” said Sikora.
Sikora received his Ph.D. at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, with a postdoctoral research appointment at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
— Written by Jenise L. Jacques