Michelle Mazurek, a CyLab alum, Director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, has been selected to receive the 2022 CyLab Distinguished Alumni Award.
“I’m flattered,” says Mazurek. “I wasn’t expecting this, and it means so much because of my immense respect for everyone at CyLab.”
Nominated by her former Ph.D. advisor Lujo Bauer, a professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Institute for Research Software (ISR) and CMU Africa, and Nicolas Christin, professor in CMU’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy and ISR, the award recognizes Mazurek’s excellence in usable security and privacy research as well as her professional leadership in the field.
“Michelle was a star Ph.D. student at CMU,” says Bauer. “Since becoming a professor, she has distinguished herself as a researcher, educator, and leader.”
Mazurek earned her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon’s Department Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2014 after completing her dissertation, “A Tag-Based, Logical Access-Control Framework for Personal File Sharing,” in which she worked to find a balance between the ideal access control policy and what users are willing and able to manage.
Upon graduation, Mazurek headed to the University of Maryland (UMD), where she began her career as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in 2020 and became the Director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center the following year.
Her human-centered research explores how users make decisions around security and privacy and the factors that lead to those choices. Through these efforts, she’s collaborated with industry partners to develop and improve secure solutions for application programming interfaces (APIs), is developing new access control models for IoT devices, and is currently working to debunk misleading VPN advertisements and understand how misinformation is affecting users’ understanding of security and privacy.
“Most real-world problems in computer security and privacy are arguably caused by systems that don’t account for the needs or capabilities of the humans that build, use, or operate them,” says Christin. “Michelle has been extremely successful as a researcher in this area and is easily on par with the best of her peers.”
One of Mazurek’s favorite things about being a professor is the opportunity to mentor students. She says the support she received in CyLab, from advisors Greg Ganger and Lujo Bauer, as well as the rest of the institute’s faculty, gave her the confidence to tackle challenging research topics and present her work in front of peers.
“I received such great support as a grad student. There was no end to the amount of time Lujo and Greg would take to read over my work and make sure I was on track,” says Mazurek.
“I try to do the same for my students, providing as much feedback as possible, giving them confidence in their work, and encouraging them to go out and talk about their research.”
Mazurek is the recipient of a number of awards, including the DARPA Young Faculty Award and NSF’s CAREER Award. She is an author of over 60 publications and has presented her work at some of the field’s most prestigious conferences and symposiums, such as the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy, the USENIX Security Symposium, and the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. She is currently program co-chair of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS) and was previously program co-chair for the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS).
“I had the pleasure of collaborating with Michelle on several usable security projects when she was a Ph.D. student,” said Lorrie Cranor, CyLab director and professor in CMU Engineering’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy and SCS’s Institute for Software Research. “I have been delighted to see her leadership in this field and to see what a great mentor she is for her own students.”
In the CyLab Distinguished Alumni Award’s third year, Mazurek joins 2020 winner and Associate Professor in CMU’s Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, Elaine Shi, along with 2021 winner and co-founder/CEO of DataVisor, Yinglian Xie.
Mazurek will give a talk as part of CyLab’s seminar series on December 5, 2022, at 12 pm.