A Look at the First Year of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s First Hire, Sara Tehranipoor
In Fall 2019, when SCU’s Department of Electrical Engineering became the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in response to industry demand for graduates with a wider range of knowledge and expertise, Assistant Professor Sara Tehranipoor was the first new faculty hire under the expanded mantle. With research expertise in the emerging field of hardware security leading the way to change is all in a day’s work for this pioneer.
“The majority of cybersecurity activities currently exist in the realms of software and networking, with active academic research efforts and significant standardization and information sharing mechanisms in industry. Unlike the software and network realms, the scope of “hardware security” is far more loosely defined.,” she said. Nowadays, “hardware security” is a hot research topic. While other researchers concentrate on expensive detection techniques in the hardware security domain, Tehranipoor’s area of focus is on prevention methods, finding ways to secure hardware, especially those that are very limited in terms of resources (memory, power, etc.). “We’re adding overhead by adding security protocols, so our proposed methods must be lightweight, cost effective, and robust,” she explained.
Students ranging from undergraduates to master’s and Ph.D. candidates help with her research, also collaborating with colleagues from other universities. Her undergraduate advisees published journal and conference papers last spring, and Tehranipoor is advising three senior design teams for the 2020-21 academic year—some of whose teammates are also conducting summer research. Added to her SCU responsibilities, she currently serves as associate editor for IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, and will serve as Technical Program Committee (TPC) Chair for the 22nd International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (ISQED'21), having previously served as co-chair for the 2020 conference.
Teaching and leading research while distanced due to the coronavirus pandemic is challenging, but she and her students are not letting it slow them down. “My Ph.D. student started with me last spring, just as we had to leave campus, but she and all the students are dedicated. For our work, we need equipment and test devices, so I have had to order some things to be sent to their homes,” she said.
“I look forward to getting back to SCU and using the facilities in the new STEM building,” she said, referring to the 270,000 square foot Sobrato Campus for Design and Innovation under construction now and slated to open next year. “It’s so encouraging to see Santa Clara investing in STEM education, that was a big draw for me. Also, the importance of our proximity to Silicon Valley cannot be overstated. Our department has so many connections with local companies that help with research funding and teaching materials. It’s a great place to be and a very exciting time to be here. Our department is growing, and I feel so fortunate to be contributing to building the program through hiring new Ph.D. students for my research, curriculum development and recruiting more faculty members. Our department didn’t just undergo a name change, we are building a vibrant program for our undergraduate and graduate students that will serve the SIlicon Valley well.”