UC San Diego computer science professor among 2017 MacArthur ‘genius’ grant winners

LA JOLLA (KUSI) — UC San Diego computer science professor Stefan Savage is among the 24 2017 MacArthur Fellows announced Wednesday, with each slated to receive $625,000 over the next five years to allow them to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional objectives.

Savage uses an interdisciplinary approach to address challenges to computer security and to counter cybercrime, according to Cecilia Conrad, the managing director of the MacArthur Fellows Program.

Savage has created new strategies for defending against malware and denial-of-service attacks from multiple sources. Together with colleagues, he was the first to demonstrate the ability to hack an automobile remotely, including taking over the engine and brakes.

Savage and his colleagues also recently discovered a way to thwart internet-based counterfeit drug rings.

The three criteria for selection of fellows are exceptional creativity, a track record of significant accomplishments, and the potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work, according to Cecilia Conrad, the managing director of the MacArthur Fellows Program.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations, Conrad said. The recipients may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in new work, change fields or alter the direction of their careers, she said.

The fellowship is considered an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.

Fellows must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government.

"From transforming conditions for low-wage workers to identifying internet security vulnerabilities, from celebrating the African American string band tradition to designing resilient urban habitats, these new MacArthur Fellows bring their exceptional creativity to diverse people, places, and social challenges,” Conrad said. "Their work gives us reason for optimism and inspires us all.”

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