Kurt Rohloff, associate professor of computer science at Ying Wu College of Computing, has won the prestigious Young Faculty Award (YFA) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Awarded on the basis of a proposal submitted by Rohloff, who’s also the co-founder and director of NJIT’s Cybersecurity Research Center, the grant will support research to improve the utilization of open-source software.

“This reward will fund my research into how to rapidly deploy open-source software onto custom hardware, with specific applications for cryptography and cybersecurity,” said Rohloff, who recently offered commentary on the massive Equifax data breach. “This funding is a small part of a larger DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative to invest in broader electronics research.” 

Associate Professor Kurt Rohloff receives the DARPA Young Faculty Award
The YFA is given to rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions. In addition to introducing them to Department of Defense (DoD) needs as well as DARPA’s program development process, “the long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key disciplines who will focus a significant portion of their careers on DoD and national security issues.”

As the blue-sky research wing of the U.S. Dept. of Defense, DARPA has played a key role in the development of major civilization-changing technologies such as email, the internet and GPS.

Rohloff’s research explores open-source hardware, such as graphics software and wireless communication software, which “is written and optimized for only the most common off-the-shelf hardware with minimal support for less common hardware, such as special graphics, wireless or network cards,” he explained. “This means it is often prohibitively expensive to use effective open-source software on many projects, thus impacting the effectiveness and security of resulting solutions that need to be built from scratch at [a] large expense.”

Since its founding in 2015, the Cybersecurity Research Center has grown from $0 to $10 million in external funding for cybersecurity research with support from DARPA, the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and others. 

And Rohloff is confident that his latest commendation will continue to elevate NJIT’s status as a premier research university.

“Every year, DARPA awards a small number of Young Faculty Awards to U.S.-based faculty members that DARPA seeks to foster and develop as members of their research community. My award is the first ever such award at NJIT, and indicates increasingly high-level recognition that NJIT faculty are supporting transformative research that contributes to the development of critical technologies.”