CECS PhD Alumni Stories
Azeem Hafeez, Ph.D. '20
I have been inquisitive since childhood. Looking at the night sky was my favorite hobby as a child. In those days most of the people slept on rooftops at night in summer. My family was no exception. Looking at Milky Way in summer nights used to rouse my curiosity. While in college my interest in physics came dominant. The nature of light, special theory of relativity, zero rest mass of photon, wave particle duality were my favorite topics and I used to have long discussions with my class fellows. These discussions were much thought-provoking as we used to interpret different theories in our own ways. That inspired in me the importance of discussions in the evolution of knowledge. When I entered university, I selected Electrical Engineering (Specializing in Telecommunication Engineering program) at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences to further pursue my interest in science and engineering. National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences is one of the leading universities in Pakistan and provided me with an excellent learning opportunity. Signals & Systems, DSP, Electromagnetism, Electronics, Microwave engineering, Fiber Optic Communications, and Antenna Theory were my favorite subjects. I also had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant as an undergraduate student.
Teaching was my passion as my grandfather and grandmother were both related to this field. In fact, both had a teaching experience of more than 50 years. I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. related to automotive engineering and security. For this reason, I selected the University of Michigan-Dearborn as it is located in the hub of the automotive industry. Currently, I have completed my Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer engineering with a concentration in automotive security, device forensics, DSP, embedded system with my current GPA being 4.0. I am also rated as one of the top instructors at RatemyProfessor for UM-Dearborn. My research focuses on implementing security in modern electric vehicles. Controller area network (CAN) is used as a legacy protocol for in-vehicle data communication between electronic control units (ECUs). Moreover, this protocol is also used to provide an interface between the vehicles and the external world via the internet; thus, makes it vulnerable to spoofing attacks. The primary reason behind vulnerability is that the sender's information in CAN messages is missing; hence, the receiving ECU is unable to authenticate an incoming CAN packet that may be injected by an adversary. In order to overcome this vulnerability, my research focuses on message authentication through transmitter identification. As I have completed my Ph.D, I plan to work in academia as a researcher and professor.
Zheming Liang, Ph.D. '20
I first attend the UM-Dearborn as a '3+2' exchange student and finished my master's degree in the ECE department by the year 2014. After two years, I applied to UM-Dearborn to continue my Ph.D. study with my advisor Dr. Su, where I got the position as a GSI. The Ph.D. program in both ECE and Rackham programs are great since my research area is focused on the machine learning and optimization based strategies for the resilience issues in the distribution system. With the help of my faculty advisor and my friends in the lab, I have published 5 journal papers and 9 conference papers during my Ph.D. program at the UM-Dearborn. Currently, I am a research engineer in the Huaneng Renewable Co. Ltd.'s production and security department. I am in charge of the patent applications, paper publication, and funding in the company.
Nevrus Kaja, Ph.D. '19
I chose to join the UM-Dearborn Ph.D. program due to its proximity and collaboration with industry, the committed and dedicated faculty, and its focus on applied research. Whether you are aiming to become a tenure-track faculty or a technical leader in industry, University of Michigan-Dearborn doctoral programs are designed to help you succeed. My experience throughout the program was fun, engaging, insightful and full of learning. I can truly say that my Ph.D. at UM-Dearborn opened my career path and enabled me to succeed professionally.
Nevrus Kaja earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2019. He currently holds the position of Manager and Technical Lead at Ford Motor Company focused on Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning.
Ahmad Nasser, Ph.D. '19
When I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 2001, I had an opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. but I declined it to pursue a career in the automotive industry.
At the time I was eager to start earning an income and building my life. Roughly,12 years later, I found myself in need of a new challenge. Fascinated by advances in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, I decided to enroll in the UM-Dearborn Ph.D. program. My first course in machine learning with Dr. Murphey sparked in me that same excitement of my early Bachelor's degree. I instantly realized then that this is where I belonged. Having spent several years in the industry gave me a new perspective on the academic material, as I could now clearly link it to real-world problems that I was facing at work. One of those problems was Cybersecurity and automotive applications. So, I took a class in computer network security with Dr. Di Ma and I knew then, that had to be my field of research. My research work exposed me to various areas in cybersecurity and allowed me to evolve both as an Engineer and a Scientist. The highlight of my time at UM-Dearborn was in meeting the many talented professors and students who were eager to help and collaborate. Being able to imagine solutions to theoretical problems and then putting those ideas to test was both challenging and satisfying. Since my graduation, I have changed positions within my company to the role of Cyber Security Architect, which allows me to work on future architectures of automotive computer chips.
Although the Ph.D. journey was tough, I am glad I was able to persevere and finish my degree. I have big plans ahead and I truly owe it to the great support network both at UM-Dearborn and at home.
Terry Ruas, Ph.D. '19
I choose the UM-Dearborn Ph.D. program because of the proximity to the faculty and administration. On a small campus, the daily relationships make you feel part of the team and not a registration number. I first started as an Information Systems and Engineering Ph.D. student, but when the CIS Ph.D. program was offered, I knew that moving to it was the right thing to do. The update on the curriculum shows how much UM-Dearborn‘s professors are engaged to offer the best possible structure for their students. During my time at UM-Dearborn, I had many opportunities that wouldn’t be possible in other places. As a Ph.D. student, aside from my research training, I had my teaching skills exercised since my first semester, starting from a grader until leading a full course independently. Another valuable experience was the interaction with prospective faculty members that the department was planning to hire. We, as Ph.D. students, were always invited to chat with them and attend to their research seminars. At the moment, I am working as a post-doctorate researcher at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal in Germany, which is a direct result of an internship I did at the National Institute of Informatics in Japan while studying at UM-Dearborn.