Carnegie Mellon University
August 21, 2020

Three new faculty join the INI

Welcome Ehab Al-Shaer, Cynthia Kuo and David Varodayan!

By Jessica Shirley

We chatted with our three new faculty members who joined the Information Networking Institute (INI) in summer 2020. Read on for their bios and Q&A!

Faculty Q&A

Ehab Al-Shaer

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Dr. Ehab Al-Shaer joins the INI as a Distinguished Career Professor in Pittsburgh. He has spent more than 22 years as a researcher and educator in the field of cybersecurity. This fall, he will teach the cybersecurity research course INSuRE. Read his bio

Q: Hometown and alma mater?
A: Alexandria, Egypt. Old Dominion University, Northeastern University and University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia.

Q: What drew you to the INI?
A: smart, hardworking, and diverse students + collegial and pioneer faculty

Q: Why did you become a professor?
A: Because my passion is about sharing my knowledge and experience with others to enable them to do better. The best definition for “others” is “students” who seek this goal.

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?
A: My Mom!

Q: What are you up to this Fall 2020?
A: Teaching a cybersecurity research course called INSuRE.

Q: Superpower? Hidden talent? Passion?
A: Hiking

Q: Best piece of advice you offer students?
A: Two key criteria for success: ambition and persistence; learn from your teacher how to be more experienced than they are.

Q: What was your biggest surprise or most important takeaway that you found in your research? 
A: Sometimes we are impressed by how hard is the problem that you solved or how thorough the proof that you wrote; however the bottom line that matters is how impactful your research is in others’ lives.

Q: Favorite place in Pittsburgh?
A: Not sure yet!

Cynthia Kuo

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Dr. Cynthia Kuo joins the INI as an Associate Professor of the Practice at CMU Silicon Valley. She has extensive experience in industry and academia as a startup founder, product lead and user experience researcher, using sensors to invent new, impactful technologies. Read her bio 

Q: Hometown and alma mater?
A: Rockville, MD. Stanford and Carnegie Mellon.

Q: What drew you to the INI?
A: I love INI's focus on interdisciplinary education while building deep technical skills. I am a big proponent of interdisciplinary education; I have 3 interdisciplinary degrees!

Q: Why did you become a professor?
A: Coming from industry - most recently, partnering with startups and co-founding my own startup - I see a need for well-rounded engineers. I returned to CMU to teach the dynamism and creativity that students will need to survive in tech.

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?
A: Professionally, I have tremendous respect for Jason Mayden (entrepreneur & d.Fellow @ Stanford, former lead designer @ Jordan). He once said to me that his goal is to be the dumbest guy in the room every three years. It means he never rests on his laurels and constantly seeks new opportunities for growth. His ability to adapt to new situations is off the charts.

Q: What are you up to this Fall 2020?
A: Preparing a new project-based course for Spring 2021! Stay tuned for more details.

Q: Best piece of advice you offer students?
A: Growth requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

David Varodayan 

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Dr. David Varodayan joins the INI as an Associate Teaching Professor at CMU Silicon Valley. This fall, he will teach Introduction to Computer Systems. David has taught a wide variety of courses in computer architecture and systems, as well as mathematical foundations of computer science and machine learning. Read his bio

Q: Hometown and alma mater?
A: Sydney, Australia. University of Toronto and Stanford University.

Q: What drew you to the INI?
A: The chance to work with highly motivated students, top-notch faculty and unparalleled staff.

Q: Why did you become a professor?
A: I’ve loved the intellectual dynamism of universities from my first semester as a student. CMU is my fourth university home!

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?
A: I once had the good fortune to hear Dr. Freeman Hrabowski speak about his journey from being incarcerated as a child for marching for civil rights to becoming a college president. His story resonates with me whenever I learn of the courage of my own students who persevere in the face of adversity to pursue their educations.

Q: What are you up to this Fall 2020?
A: Teaching 14-513: Introduction to Computer Systems, mentoring INI Practicum and developing exciting new courses

Q: Superpower? Hidden talent? Passion?
A: I love biking to work and listening to podcasts, sometimes at the same time, though I admit it’s safer to keep those activities separate.

Q: Best piece of advice you offer students?
A: The best lessons are usually learned the hard way. For me it’s this: focus on progress, not perfection.

Q: Favorite place in Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley?
A: The last time I was in Pittsburgh, I rode the Duquesne Incline for spectacular views of the city. In Silicon Valley, I like snacking on street food at farmers’ markets.