Qu, Singh, Chakraborty, D'Antonio win 2020 ISR awards

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Clockwise fron top left: Professor Gang Qu, Ph.D. student Abhishek Chakraborty, Ph.D. student Michael D'Antonio, Ph.D. student Akshay Singh.

The 2020 ISR Welcome Back Reception and Awards Ceremony was held online, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, due to the pandemic situation. As is ISR’s tradition, ISR Director Annkur Srivastava gave a short speech about the state of the institute, followed by an overview of ISR’s current status and the accomplishments of its faculty and students in the past year. He then presented the following four awards. Congratulations to the winners!

ISR Outstanding Faculty Award: Gang Qu

Professor Gang Qu is the 2020 winner of the ISR Outstanding Faculty Award. He was nominated for this award by Professor Sennur Ulukus and Distinguished University Professor John Baras.

Dr. Qu’s research spans several areas and is fundamentally cross-disciplinary and systems oriented, thus fitting two key objectives of the overall ISR research mission. His main research interests are on the VLSI design for embedded systems with focus on low power and energy efficient embedded system design; and hardware related security, privacy and trust issues.

Both areas have attracted significant (and increasing) research interest and work world-wide. Gang’s research group has been working in the general area of cybersecurity with focus on hardware security and trust for more than two decades. He is well known in the community for his pioneering work accomplishments and dedicated efforts in promoting the field. In the past year his project VoltJokey has contributed significantly to the field of system security. It has received a lot of attention from industry and academia worldwide.

His work is fundamental for a systems approach to security and trust and for the important development of composable and compositional security. In his nomination letter, Dr. Baras writes, “This is an area where I have interacted frequently with Dr. Qu, and his ideas and contributions have influenced my thinking and that of several other ISR colleagues on this subject. In addition, we have frequently interacted on various problems in the Internet of Things area and Dr. Qu has shared generously his ideas and knowledge with my students, postdocs and myself.”

Dr. Qu has been working on low power and energy efficient design of embedded systems for more than 20 years, and is well recognized as an expert. He and his group have contributed significantly to the theory and practice of dynamic voltage scaling.

In addition to work on reducing chip total power and energy expenditure from the perspective of design automation of integrated circuits, his research investigated how to combine these hardware low power and low energy design methodologies with specific applications such as multimedia systems and sensor networks. He has also investigated energy efficient micro and nano devices with digital, analog, and MEMS components.

On hardware related security, privacy and trust issues, Dr. Qu’s research efforts have been focused on how hardware can help to make the system more secure and trustworthy. Specifically, he and his group have proposed robust and practical architectures to implement physically unclonable functions (PUFs) on silicon. His research group is among the leaders in how to hide information into digital circuits to establish design authorship and to build trusted chips. These results have become increasingly important and valuable in the continuous struggle to protect intellectual property and electronic designs.

Dr. Qu also has investigated how to enhance trust in the design of integrated circuits (trusted IC which perform exactly the functionalities they are designed for, no more and no less); and how to establish trust in ad hoc networks under the existence of insider attacks. In this technical area Dr. Qu has interacted and collaborated with John Baras, Michel Cukier, Jeff Foster, Mike Hicks, Jonathan Katz, Ankur Srivastava, Sennur Ulukus and Min Wu. He is recognized as a leader in this increasingly important technical area for the UMD Cybersecurity Center (MC2), the university, and the region.

George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award: Abhishek Chakraborty, Akshay Singh and Michael D’Antonio

Three deserving graduate students have each been given the 2020 George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award.

Abhishek Chakraborty
Abhishek was nominated for this award by his advisor, ISR Director Ankur Srivastava.

Abhishek joined Dr. Srivastava’s research group in Fall 2016 and has been creative and productive throughout his time as a Ph.D. student. His research focus is hardware security, which studies the security threats in the integrated circuit supply chain which cost the entire industry billions of dollars every year. Abhishek has investigated and contributed to multiple aspects of hardware security, including logic obfuscation, side-channel analysis, security of emerging technologies, neural network model IP protection etc. His contribution to the field is diverse and substantial.

In his first project, he worked on devising a power side-channel based attack strategy against cryptosystems utilizing spin-transfer torque magnetic random-access memory. This work was published in the International Symposium on Hardware-oriented Security and Trust (HOST) 2017, which is a top-level conference in this field.

In his second work, he investigated the vulnerability of existing logic obfuscation schemes to power analysis attacks. This work was published in the International Conference on Computer Design (ICCD) 2017, which is also a prestigious conference.

Another significant work of his is TimingSAT in which he developed a novel SAT formulation based approach to de-obfuscate the functionalities of such delay locked designs within a reasonable amount of time. This work was published in the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design (ICCAD) 2018 which is a top-tier conference in the field. An extension of this research is under review in IEEE Transactions on CAD, our topmost journal.

In his third work, Abhishek developed an iterative SAT formulation based attack strategy for deobfuscating many-core GPU hardware without any requirement of an activated chip (a much realistic attack model). This work was published in the Design Automation Conference (DAC) 2018 which is the one of the most prestigious conferences in entire Computer Engineering research field.

In his fourth work, he proposed a Hardware/software co-design based Accelerator Obfuscation scheme to provably safeguard the intellectual property of accelerator designs against SAT as well as removal/bypass type of attacks while still maintaining significant output corruptibility for high-level applications. This work was presented in IEEE Computer Society Annual Symposium on VLSI (ISVLSI) 2019. He also co-authored an invited keynote paper on logic locking which has been published in IEEE Transactions on CAD.

Most recently, he demonstrates the utilization of a hardware root-of-trust based obfuscation framework to safeguard the IPs of neural network models. This approach ensures that only an authorized end-user who possesses a trustworthy hardware device is able to run intended neural network applications using the well-trained model. This work has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Design Automation Conference (DAC) 2020.

Abhishek has maintained timely progress throughout the program and has been a productive researcher. He cleared the PhD qualifying requirements in his first year and should graduate in May. He has already published nine research papers in prestigious conferences and journals. Overall Abhishek’s research work on hardware security has more than 190 Google scholar citations, which is very impressive.

Akshay Singh
Akshay was nominated for this award by his advisor, Professor Alireza Khaligh.

Akshay joined the ECE PhD program in 2016. Previously, he received a dual degree, B.Tech in Electrical Engineering and M.Tech in Machine Drives and Power Electronics, from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT- Kharagpur) with a GPA of 9.51/10.00. He was one of the very top applicants and was admitted with Fellowship. In fact, he was admitted to many of our peer insitutions, including Georgia Tech, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Washington, and University of Minnesota, among many others.

Akshay is a thoughtful and attentive listener, who effectively manages his time and works very efficiently to fulfill all his commitments. Akshay’s research is closely related to ISR research themes, and spans several areas of power electronics and energy systems including modeling, simulation, design, and development of power electronic interfaces for transportation electrification and in particular more electric aircrafts.

His PhD dissertation is focused on the investigation, modeling, design and verification of a regulated transformer rectifier unit for more electric aircrafts, sponsored by Boeing. He recently passed his PhD proposal examination and advanced to the PhD candidacy.

In this work, he has proposed, modeled, designed, and tested a Gallium Nitride single-stage AC-DC converter topology for RTRU applications. His impressive contributions have shown a promise of improving power density by more than 50% compared to state-of-the-art Silicon Carbide (SiC) RTRU prototype that was designed by a former student in Dr. Khaligh’s research group. Akshay developed a comprehensive Finite Element Analysis (FEA) based design methodologies for various parts of the converter including transformer, gate drive layouts, and EMI filter. His developed methods led to theoretical advancements in the optimal design of highly efficient and compact planar transformers with integrated leakages, and more importantly optimized intra-winding capacitances for AC-DC and DC-DC converters.

To validate all his theoretical accomplishments, he manufactured a single-phase 1.7kW RTRU prototype, and a highly efficient parallelized code for executing control laws for a modular RTRU with a single microcontroller and no communication requirement, which showed over 96% efficiency. He is currently designing two more modules to be integrated and used for manufacturing of a three-phase modular 5kW RTRU system.

Akshay is always enthusiastic to collaborate with other students to expand his knowledge and share his experience with others to help them achieve their goals. He has been mentoring another PhD student in the MPEL lab, Chanaka Singhabahu, over a wide range of topics. He has also collaborated with a former student, Dr. Zeyu Zhang, in the design and validation of a MHz level transformer for a CLLC converter in electric vehicle onboard charging systems. Furthermore, he has collaborated with Michael D’Antonio in the modeling and optimization the transformer design as well as development of an optimal modulation scheme for microinverter converters in photovoltaic systems.

Akshay also has shown great interest in mentoring/advising undergraduate students. He was a TA for ENEE 307 Electronic Circuits Design Laboratory and a mentor for three REU students. All the students Akshay mentored have shown great progress in their research and are currently either pursuing a graduate degree or a promising career in industry.

Michael D’Antonio
Michael was nominated for this award by his advisor, Professor Alireza Khaligh.

Michael has been at UMD since 2012 as an undergraduate in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. Dr. Khaligh got to know Michael as an undergrad when he took his renewable energy course, and later became his Ph.D. advisor.

Michael’s Ph.D. research project is focused on the design of a low-cost and highly reliable microinverter for residential solar applications, sponsored by the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. The microinverter is designed to ensure reductions in the Levelized Cost of Electricity of residential microinverters by introducing strict targets regarding bill-of-material cost, reliability, efficiency, power density, and specific power. This work is interdisciplinary by nature, as it necessitates thermal, mechanical, and reliability perspectives to be considered in all electrical design decisions.

Michael also has collaborated with Yidi Shen, another graduate student in the MPEL lab, on the design and parametric analysis of an active-power-decoupler to enable significant reductions in required capacitance, enabling the use of film-based capacitors. A hybrid prototype including a combination of both GaN- and Si-based devices was selected and a hardware prototype was built and tested.

Recently Michael has focused on a novel integrated-transformer design and geometric optimization, which improves over similar transformer implementations in the literature from the perspectives of transformer footprint area, parasitic performance, and efficiency. He also has studied the impact of variable-frequency control on the design of the circuit’s Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) filter, and proposed the use of one such variable frequency implementation that enables more than five-fold reduction in required EMI filter volume, and consequently reduced cost.

Michael also was a TA for ENEE380 Electromagnetic Theory, ENEE 474 Power Systems and ENEE 475 Power Electronics. He was awarded the 2017 Outstanding TA award and also served as a TA Training and Development (TATD) fellow, where he administered four workshops in different topics regarding successful TA practices. In 2017 he advised undergraduate students in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. He has also contributed to mentoring middle school students on behalf of the 4-H Science Adventures program.

Finally, Michael has been active in ECE service and student mentorship, serving as the President of the ECE Graduate Student Association last year. This year he is serving on the Graduate Studies and Research Committee.

Congratulations to all the 2020 ISR Award winners!

Published October 9, 2020