Mingyan Liu named Alice L. Hunt Collegiate Professor of Engineering

Mingyan Liu, renowned for her research specializing in communication networks and cybersecurity, has served as Chair of ECE since 2018. (video of the talk now available)
Mingyan Liu presented her talk on March 29, 2023.
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Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named the Alice L. Hunt Collegiate Professor of Engineering in recognition of her excellence in research, innovation, teaching, and leadership.

Liu conducts research in the broad area of sequential decision and learning theory, game theory and incentive mechanisms, with applications to large-scale networked systems, cybersecurity and cyber risk quantification.

Liu’s career has been defined by interdisciplinary research, having collaborated closely with faculty from different fields. Together with faculty in electromagnetics, Liu developed a smart wireless sensor network to measure soil moisture, an important metric used in all water and energy balance models, weather prediction models, and ecosystem process simulation models. She’s worked with faculty in civil and environmental engineering in the design and deployment of structural-health-monitoring sensor networks. She currently serves as the lead PI of a $6.5M Multidisciplinary Research Initiative Program (MURI) to develop tools to understand and shape online and on-the-ground networks that drive strategic interactions and decision making.

In 2018, Liu received the Distinguished University Innovator Award for her research in the field of cybersecurity. Specifically, she and her colleagues, with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation, developed a predictive analytics framework that uses machine learning to estimate an organization’s likelihood of having a material data breach in the near future.

With support from U-M’s Office of Technology Transfer, she then co-founded the company QuadMetrics in 2014 to commercialize the technology, which provides companies with an overall security score, helping security professionals address gaps and enabling partners and insurers to understand a firm’s security risk. Within just two years, the company was acquired by analytic software company FICO.

A gifted educator, Liu received the College of Engineering Education Excellence Award for her efforts in revamping several courses to keep them industry relevant, relatable to students, and teachable by new faculty. She has served as ECE Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs and ECE Communications Area Coordinator, and numerous College and University committees, including several to support and advance women in engineering.

Liu received a PI Excellence Award from the Department of Homeland Security–Cyber Security Division, a CoE Service Excellence Award, and is a Fellow of IEEE.

After receiving her doctoral degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, Liu joined the University of Michigan Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2000. She was appointed the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of ECE in 2018.

Collegiate professorships are named after faculty who have previously taught at the University of Michigan. Liu selected Alice Hunt in honor of Hunt’s legacy of helping shape instruction at the College of Engineering. During the early 20th century, engineering drawing was foundational for many current engineering fields, including electrical engineering. Liu also wanted to honor Hunt’s legacy as a trailblazer.

“Alice Hunt was the first known woman instructor ever hired into the College of Engineering and one of the first women instructors to ever be hired into the university,” Liu said. “She was here for 30 years, and while she never had the title of professor, she made very significant contributions to the education of our students. Engineering drawing was an essential part of engineering education and indeed critical to the very emergence of engineering as a new branch of the academy. She was an artist; it’s fascinating how in this case art was the way into the engineering world for women. I was trained as an engineer, but I love the arts, and drawing also happens to be a hobby of mine.”

About Alice L. Hunt

Alice Hunt had a 30-year career at the university, serving as an instructor in Engineering Drawing in the College of Engineering. She was appointed as an assistant to Professor C. E. Dennison on February 27, 1889. In October of that year, her title changed to Assistant in Drawing. She was later promoted to Instructor in Engineering Drawing, which she held until her retirement in February 1919. She is the first known woman instructor hired into the College of Engineering.

Hunt was one of the longest-serving instructors at Michigan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the first representative of art on the Michigan faculty. The water color “Willow” displayed in the Alumni Memorial Hall was purchased in her honor with funds that she left the University for the purchase of art pieces.