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Honors and Awards

Xiao Wang Receives NSF CAREER Award

The award will support research advancing the scientific foundation of secure multi-party computation

Xiao WangNorthwestern Engineering’s Xiao Wang has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), its most prestigious honor for junior faculty members.

Wang is an assistant professor of computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering.

The CAREER program supports the early-career development of academic role models dedicated to outstanding research, inspired teaching, enthusiastic learning, and disseminating new knowledge to a broad audience. The award is intended to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of contributions to research, education, and their integration.

Wang will receive $578,892 over five years from NSF’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) Program for his project titled “Pushing the Practicality of Secure Multiparty Computation (MPC).” The work will focus on bridging the gap between the critical need for secure MPC — which enables a set of mutually untrusted parties to jointly compute a function without revealing the underlying data — and vital challenges preventing wide deployment.

Wang aims to design efficient, robust, and scalable protocols and software infrastructures to push the practical application of MPC.

“By pushing the use of MPC, the project enables new beneficial applications without sacrificing privacy,” Wang said. “We hope the results from the project will lead to wider adoption of MPC in practice and benefit everyone with enhanced privacy.”

The project has three components.

  • First, Wang will focus on developing secure, two-party computation protocols in a malicious setting — in which adversaries can arbitrarily deviate from a prescribed protocol — that are as efficient and scalable as their semi-honest, or protocol-adhering, counterparts.
  • Second, Wang will investigate MPC efficiency using big data in application-specific settings and improve RAM-based MPC protocols for practical workloads.
  • Finally, Wang will develop new classes of protocols that can scale MPC to hundreds of parties and compute huge statements even in cases when an adversary can corrupt many participants.

Building on Wang’s open-source efforts in cryptographic protocols and privacy-preserving technologies, the research outcomes of the CAREER project will be applied and evaluated via industry testing and academic collaboration, including partnerships with Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law.

In addition, the project emphasizes educational and outreach activities to aid researchers, practitioners, and students at different stages to learn, deploy, and advocate for MPC. Wang plans to host mentoring workshops to promote diversity of participation in the field of cryptography.

“I am very honored to receive the CAREER award and would like to thank the department for its continuous support,” Wang said.

Prior to joining Northwestern, Wang completed a post-doctoral fellowship in computer science at MIT and Boston University in 2019. He earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a bachelor of engineering in computer science from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.