Campus & Community

New Faculty Chair to Lead Stevens Computer Science Department

Generous gift from alumnus David Farber '56 M.S. '61 will support role

New Computer Science faculty chair Giuseppe Ateniese (pictured left) and Stevens alumnus David Farber
New Computer Science faculty chair Giuseppe Ateniese (left) and Stevens alumnus David Farber '56 M.S. '61

From California to Baltimore to Europe, Giuseppe Ateniese has gathered many impressive titles, building a career as an internationally renowned scholar in information security.

But this Italian-born computer scientist’s favorite title is his current: David and GG Farber Endowed Chair in Computer Science at Stevens.

“Professor Farber is very well known in Computer Science — he is considered the ‘Grandfather of the Internet,’” Ateniese says. “Having his name in my title was amazing to me. It’s such an honor.”

Ateniese is the new director of Stevens’ Department of Computer Science and also occupies the newest faculty chair at Stevens, established by Stevens Trustee Emeritus Dave Farber ’56 M.S. '61 and his late wife, Gloria. He joined Stevens this past January, coming from Sapienza-University of Rome and Johns Hopkins University, where he was an associate professor and co-founded the JHU Information Security Institute (JHUISI).

Ateniese’s new title carries the name of Farber, who himself is the Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science and Public Policy at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and an internet pioneer. Ateniese brings credentials that so many of his colleagues say help him live up to his new job title.

They cite his deep and significant contributions in computer science, with his research focuses in applied cryptology and network security. With his seminal paper on cloud security, “Provable Data Possession at Untrusted Sources,” and more than 10,000 Google Scholar Citations for his research, Stevens has found “a world-class researcher,” Farber says.

“We were looking for notable people with great futures to fit that chair. This guy was good,” Farber says.

“Having a leader who can help steer young faculty especially is important,” Farber adds. “There’s huge potential here. I would like it to stay here, and be more of a force.”

“Recruiting Dr. Ateniese as Farber Chair Professor and Department Director of Computer Science is a significant accomplishment for Stevens,” says Provost George Korfiatis. “In addition to being a world renowned researcher and scholar in cybersecurity, Giuseppe is a strategic thinker, a visionary and a leader.  Exactly the qualities needed to propel our Computer Science Department to new heights.”

The faculty chair that supports his research and allows him to create a research program — this attracted him to Stevens. So did New York City, “the center of the world,” he says.

Ateniese has developed tools to check the integrity of data stored in the cloud and his current research agenda includes solving problems that affect national security and that are relevant to financial institutions.

“Clearly, cybersecurity is something that’s going to be in demand forever,” he says. “There will always be security issues to be solved. We have to adapt basically every year.”

Ateniese praises the department for its quality faculty, and its research strengths in cybersecurity,programming languages and data science (broadly defined). But he wants to do more.

“We really have to go after extremely difficult problems and bring in large grants,” he says. The overriding aim of his strategic plan: rising in the rankings.

Stevens is already in the top 10 universities for a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science according to USA Today College (2016), but Ateniese wants to build robust graduate and research programs.

“I want the Computer Science Department to be much higher ranked than it is now,” he says. “This only comes through grants and avant-garde research projects.”

But right now, one of his main priorities is filling new and vacant faculty positions, to help propel this research. Now at 15 full-time faculty, he hopes to double that size in the future. He also wants to attract more Ph.D. students.

Ateniese plans for more collaboration with Stevens’ School of Business and with the School of Systems and Enterprises, as well as financial institutions across the river on Wall Street. He cites as an example his ongoing collaboration with Accenture to improve “blockchain” technology, which is used by financial companies for internal transactions because it may save them millions of dollars a day, Ateniese says.

Competing against many top schools in the New York City area for high-quality faculty and Ph.D. students is difficult, but Ateniese sees a Stevens advantage in its small size and ability to adapt to change quickly. 

Here, he routinely speaks with Stevens’ president and provost — something that never happened at his previous posts.

“Clearly, the size of Stevens is very attractive. It’s a small university. It is possible to change things and tailor them to our strategic plan,” he says.

“I feel that if you have good ideas and a tenable goal, it can happen here.”