Research & Innovation

2023 Edison Patent Awards Recognize Stevens Professor Huang, Alumna Nguyen Ph.D. '23, Research Scientist Lawrence

Physics professor Yuping Huang, alumna Lac Nguyen Ph.D. '23 celebrated for pathbreaking quantum-security patent; research scientist Victor Lawrence honored for lifetime contributions

Stevens quantum scientist Yuping Huang and recent doctoral conferee Lac Nguyen Ph.D. ‘23 were honored with an Edison Patent Award by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey November 15. The award recognizes novel quantum-secured solutions created by the two researchers for authentication and private-data computing that can process and verify information without sharing that information.

Longtime Stevens professor and research scientist Victor Lawrence, formerly of Bell Laboratories, was also honored individually at the 44th annual event, which was held at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and focused this year on the theme “Innovation Lives Here.”

Quantum security: ‘digital lock’ of the future?

Huang, who joined Stevens in 2014 and serves as founding director of the university’s Center for Quantum Science & Engineering, and Nguyen received the award for their patent “Systems and Methods for Quantum-Secured Private-Preserving Computations.”
“We are very honored to receive this award for our patent on quantum secured, privacy-preserving computing,” said Huang before the event.

The patented technology contains quantum cryptographic and authentication protocols and processes, describing a method of generating pairs of so-called “entangled” photons that can share certain properties, measurement results and security checks with each other — sharing joint communications — without ever sharing in any way that private data in the process, either with each other or with external parties or computing processes.

“How do you prove you are you without giving up sensitive information?” asks Huang by way of explanation. “This [technology] will allow you to do that without having to give up any of your information.”

New security technologies are vital in a digital era, he points out.

“As we move everything online, we are exposed to higher and higher risk of cyberattacks,” says Huang. “Because it is so vital to many people, our goal is to find a permanent solution to secure everyone’s digital assets and private information.”
“Our patent does that for authentication, data sharing, and zero-knowledge proof. Its security is derived directly from fundamental laws of quantum physics, so it is physically secured under all conditions.”

“Another important application of this patent is providing a new approach for identity authentication among parties on quantum networks, replacing existing classical methods,” adds Nguyen.

“The integration of this protocol with quantum key distribution holds the promise of establishing a robust quantum-secured communication system.”

Bell Labs pioneer Lawrence also honored

Senior research scientist Lawrence was also celebrated during the ceremony with an individual Science & Technology Medal.

Victor LawrenceVictor LawrenceLawrence, a pioneer in digital signal processing and multimedia communication, began his career in Ghana and the United Kingdom before joining fabled Bell Laboratories (which later became AT&T) to innovate voice, video, data and audio technologies, including the development of the first 56kbps modems, as analog technologies gradually and then rapidly became digital.

After more than 30 years with Bell, he joined Stevens in 2005.

“Victor saw what the communications network was at that time, but [also] what it could be,” commented Paul Wilford, a director of research at Nokia Bell Labs, in a tribute video. Lawrence, he continued, had “a belief in science and a belief in people, and that somehow together we can do more than just individual silos.

“I had good mentors throughout my career,” added Lawrence, “and I always knew that if you want to see far, you have to stand on somebody’s shoulders. So it’s very important that I can have a strong shoulder for others to stand on.”

Lawrence, who has also long worked to improve Internet access in underserved nations, was previously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2016.