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Rice University's Farinaz Koushanfar named to MIT Technology Review's TR35


Source: Rice University, Houston (August 2008)

Koushanfar recognized for innovations to protect microchips

Rice University's Farinaz Koushanfar was named to MIT Technology Review's TR35 in 2008 for innovations that stop computer chip piracy.

Photo by Tommy LaVergne/Rice University

Rice University's Farinaz Koushanfar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been named to MIT Technology Review magazine's coveted 2008 list of the world's 35 Top Young Innovators. Koushanfar was recognized for developing new techniques that microchip designers can use to fight hardware piracy, a growing problem that's already believed to cost chipmakers several billion dollars per year.

The annual MIT TR35 list recognizes accomplished individuals under age 35 whose cutting-edge research exemplifies the spirit of innovation. The 35 are chosen from a field of more than 300 nominees. They come from disciplines as diverse as biotechnology, medicine, computing and nanotechnology.

"In two short years at Rice, Dr. Koushanfar has firmly established herself as a leader in her field," said Rice President David Leebron. "Her work will make computers more secure and efficient for people all around the world, and she is richly deserving of Technology Review's prestigious TR35 honor."

Last year, Koushanfar published a new method that allows chip designers to lock and remotely activate chips with a unique ID tag. The method exploits the inherent, miniscule and unclonable variations that occur between the individual microchips that are printed from the same blueprints. In some cases, these variations are so slight they amount to just a few atoms that are out of place. With Koushanfar's chip-locking technology, only a chip's patent holder can decipher the unique key and activate the chip -- meaning knockoffs and stolen chips are worthless to pirates. The work is being extensively expanded to create higher-level security mechanisms, chips with multiple personalities and third-party intellectual property protection and reuse.

TR35 award winners are selected by Technology Review's editors and a panel of independent judges from major institutions and corporations such as MIT, BP, Digg,, IBM Watson Research Center, Xerox Corp., and Princeton, Yale and Texas A&M universities.

"The TR35 honors young innovators for accomplishments that are poised to have a dramatic impact on the world as we know it," said Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of Technology Review magazine. "We celebrate their success and look forward to their continued advancement of technology in their respective fields."

Koushanfar and the other TR35 winners will be featured in the September issue of Technology Review magazine and honored at Technology Review's EmTech08 Conference to be held at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 23-25.

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