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Top cybersecurity expert wins 2023 Real Triumphs Faculty Award

Top cybersecurity expert wins 2023 Real Triumphs Faculty Award

November 6, 2023 at 12:01pm

The FIU President’s Council has selected Eminent Scholar Chaired Associate Professor Selcuk Uluagac as the winner of the 2023 Real Triumphs Faculty Award. A recognized expert in cybersecurity and privacy, Uluagac is committed to equipping students for excellent positions within the cybersecurity industry. The faculty member from the Knight School of Computing and Information Sciences and the department of electrical engineering also received special recognition as an award recipient for Excellence in Research at this year’s Faculty Convocation Award Ceremony in acknowledgement of his achievements at the university.

“Dr. Uluagac exemplifies what it means to be an outstanding faculty member. He exhibits leadership and advocacy in his field and is an exceptional teacher and mentor,” said Provost, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Béjar. “This accolade is yet another testament to his commitment to our mission to educate the next generation of leaders in cybersecurity and privacy.”

Uluagac works regularly in collaboration with some of the top internet companies in the world, notably Google and Microsoft among others, while also preparing his students for top jobs in the industry.

“Receiving the Real Triumphs Faculty award is a great honor,” Uluagac said. “It recognizes the multifaceted role of a professor, from research and innovation to mentorship and leadership, and it affirms the profound impact we can have on our students, our field and our world."

Uluagac has made a significant impact since arriving at FIU. He received the Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation in 2015, and his research has been cited more than 7,000 times since 2018, according to Google Scholar.

Uluagac’s projects are at the cutting edge of cybersecurity and privacy. In one consequential paper, he and his team demonstrated how the sensors of smart devices such as smart watches can be manipulated by hackers. Another recent work of his shed light on how in-browser applications which ask for permission to upload files (like free photo editors) can cunningly hack into user’s computers. The research, which also proposed solutions to this problem, was conducted in collaboration with Google.

“Cybersecurity research is incredible because not only do you work at the height of technological advancements, but you also make a tangible difference in protecting people's most important assets, from personal memories to financial security,” Uluagac said.

Uluagac earned his Master’s in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and his Ph.D. in computer engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). He would go on to become a senior researcher at Georgia Tech before coming to FIU in 2014.

The FIU professor has also made important contributions in the classroom. He has helped lead efforts to teach courses that illustrate the cybersecurity of Internet of Things devices, showing students in his lab in real time how hackers exploit these networks. He has also supported students in securing prestigious grants and awards of their own. Uluagac’s students have been hired by top-institutions such as Amazon, Google Security, MIT Lincoln Labs, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, Georgia Tech, Sandia National Labs, Department of Homeland Security and HBO.

To Uluagac, the award speaks not only to his achievements, but also the team around him.

“While I’m thrilled to receive this award, this acknowledgement is also a testament to our university’s strength in cybersecurity and all of our faculty and staff supporting it,” Uluagac said. “It's a privilege to work in this interdisciplinary environment, where we engage with diverse students and witness the real impact we can collectively make in both supporting education and creating a safer world.”

The FIU President’s Council Faculty Award committee annually recognizes an outstanding professor who engages in significant research, promotes student learning and demonstrates distinguished leadership within the university and their profession. The recipient is announced at the Faculty Convocation Award Ceremony. A cash prize is distributed from an endowment funded by the President’s Council. The council is comprised of business and civic leaders who act as brand ambassadors and advocates for FIU in the community, working to strengthen one of the most vital resources of South Florida's infrastructure.