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Partnership wrestles with complex questions that spring from tech growth

The tech whisperers

Stacey Dogan, Mayank Varia & Andrew Sellars photographed
Stacey Dogan
Associate Dean and Professor of Law at the School of Law
Mayank Varia
Research Associate Professor of Computer Science at the College of Arts & Sciences
Andrew Sellars
Clinical Instructor at the School of Law

Facebook privacy scandals. Election hacking. Data breaches. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with the tumultuous worlds spinning behind our computer screens—and the myriad ways they impact our lives.

BU’s Cyber Security, Law & Society Alliance—or Cyber Alliance—was created to help with that. The new collaboration between our computer science researchers, law professors, and social scientists is squarely focused on the complex and ever-shifting legal, ethical, and societal questions that spring from our technology-driven and networked worlds.

Law professor Stacey Dogan and clinical instructor Andrew Sellars, director of the Technology & Cyberlaw Clinic at the School of Law, are part of a growing interdisciplinary community on campus focused on the ethics of technology.

The Cyber Alliance operates under the umbrella of BU’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering, a University-wide institute that supports computational and data-driven research across all academic disciplines.

Last year, the Cyber Alliance put on a seminar series to explore the interaction between cybersecurity technology, law, and policy; invited experts in the field to speak at BU; met with US congressional staffers; and collaborated on transdisciplinary scholarship.

Additionally, faculty have created innovative courses for students. Associate Professor of Law Ahmed Ghappour and Computer Science Professor Ran Canetti cotaught Privacy, Security, and Technology, which grouped law and computer science students together to write articles about current issues at the intersection of technology and law.

One of the Cyber Alliance cofounders, Mayank Varia, a research associate professor of computer science and codirector of the Hariri Institute’s Center for Reliable Information Systems & Cyber Security, says that while there’s no denying the dizzying speed of technological advancement, he is confident society can keep up with its attendant quandaries. Breaches in cybersecurity were possible 30 years ago, he notes, it’s just that the scale of those outcomes has become bigger.

“I think an important step here is for us in the cybersecurity area to educate lawmakers and regulators about how technologies currently work and what they are capable of doing,” Varia says. “Our hope is to make BU a recognized center of excellence in this area where we can positively influence the next generation of policy and policymakers.”

Faculty accolades

No moss on these minds

We were thrilled—though not surprised—when TIME magazine named School of Medicine researcher Ann McKee to its annual 100 Most Influential People List for her pioneering work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive brain disease crippling many athletes and soldiers.

But McKee, professor of neurology and pathology, was just one of our groundbreaking researchers and scholars called out by their peers and the national media.

  • Vivien Schmidt, professor of international relations and political science and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, landed a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship for her research on the “rhetoric of discontent” through a transatlantic investigation of the populist revolt against globalization and Europeanization.
  • Ran Canetti, a professor of computer science, was awarded the 2018 RSA Conference Award, one of the top honors in computer science, for his pioneering work in cryptography.
  • Michael Hasselmo, a professor of psychological and brain sciences, known for his pioneering research on memory and his leadership in bringing together neuroscientists from multiple disciplines, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  • Physics professor Larry Sulak won the 2018 American Physical Society W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in experimental particle physics, the highest US award in his field.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and anxiety expert Stefan G. Hofmann, a professor of psychology, won an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award, which recognizes the lifetime contributions of academic scientists or scholars “whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”
  • Julie Palmer, a professor of epidemiology, was named a Komen Scholar by the breast cancer research nonprofit Susan G. Komen, one of 10 new Komen Scholars joining an advisory group of leaders in breast cancer research and advocacy.
  • BU’s Center for Regenerative Medicine won the 2017 Sharing Research Resources Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges for the lab’s commitment to “open-source biology”—its willingness to share the resources they create, for free, to anyone.
  • Lou Ureneck, a professor of journalism, was selected to receive a Yankee Quill Award, New England's highest journalistic honor, in October 2018 from the Academy of New England Journalists and the New England Society of News Editors, recognizing his lifetime contribution toward excellence in journalism in New England.