Veteran, rookie SBU researchers earn major honors

Just getting started: Stony Brook University post-doc neuroscientist Lyl Tomlinson has added another notch to his already-impressive belt.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Two Stony Brook University researchers – one with an extended résumé of scientific accomplishments, one just warming up – received some major recognition this week.

R. Sekar, a professor in the Department of Computer Science in the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been named a SUNY Empire Innovation Professor for his cybersecurity work, which draws on disciplines ranging from programming techniques to networking to artificial intelligence.

The SUNY Empire Innovation program is a state-funded competitive grant program dedicated to recruiting and retaining world-class faculty throughout the state university system – and Sekar certainly qualifies, according to Department of Computer Sciences Chairman Samir Das, who dubbed the professor “one of the nation’s foremost cybersecurity researchers.”

“His leadership efforts in cybersecurity research and education have brought Stony Brook to prominence in this very important field,” Das said.

Also this week, SBU announced that neuroscientist Lyl Tomlinson (Class of 2017), a pharmacology postdoctoral student and program coordinator of the university’s PhD Career Ladder Program, has been named a Science and Technology Policy Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

R. Sekar: Empire innovator.

The one-year fellowship will place Tomlinson, a member of SBU’s Class of 2017, in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health, where he will “contribute to NIH-wide strategic initiatives,” according to the university.

Fellows of the AAAS “have been making an impact on American life through the federal government” for nearly half a century, noted Jennifer Pearl, an SBU graduate (Class of 1998) who directs the association’s Science and Technology Fellow program.

“Each fall, we look forward to providing a career-enhancing experience to highly qualified scientists and engineers, like Lyl,” Pearl said in a statement.

Among his impressive qualifications, Tomlinson founded a graduate-student club focused on science policy and advocacy and organized a successful policy forum focused on Long Island’s opioid-addiction epidemic.

The Brooklyn native also serves as developer and co-coordinator of the PhD Works Professional Development Awards for Inclusion and Equity, an SBU-based graduate student career-development funding initiative, and is a one-time U.S. winner of FameLab, an annual international science competition sponsored by the British Council, the UK’s global cultural and educational organization.

Also racking up an impressive list of achievements is Sekar, who joined the SBU faculty in 1999 and has (so far) earned the university more than $19 million in research grants.

Through work focused primarily on software and systems security, Sekar has won several “Best Paper” awards at top cybersecurity venues, in addition to a SUNY Scholarship and Research award and a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities.

A veteran of multiple major-league cybersecurity conferences and a longtime contributor to several scientific journals covering the field, Sekars efforts to establish SBU’s cybersecurity curriculum earned a Center of Excellence designation from the National Security Agency – and his work as a teacher is unparalleled, according to the university, which noted “many of his PhD graduates hold faculty positions at top-100 institutions around the world.”

Fotis Sotiropoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said Sekar’s SUNY Empire Innovation recognition was “well-deserved.”

“Professor Sekar’s transformative work is critical to addressing the issues we face in today’s era of exponential technological growth,” Sotiropoulos said this week.


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