Roya Ensafi receives Willie Hobbs Moore Achievement Award

The award recognizes Ensafi’s outstanding achievements and contributions to promoting equity in STEM.
Prof. Roya Ensafi
Prof. Roya Ensafi

Roya Ensafi, Morris Wellman Faculty Development Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Michigan, has been recognized by U-M Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) with the Willie Hobbs Moore Achievement Award. Given to one individual each year at WISE’s annual Willie Hobbs Moore Awards Ceremony, the award honors Ensafi for her exemplary and inspirational contributions to STEM.

Named in honor of Willie Hobbs Moore, the first Black woman to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering at U-M and the first Black woman in the country to complete a PhD in Physics, WISE’s annual awards ceremony recognizes individuals in the U-M community whose achievements reflect the spirit of this pioneering figure in history. The four awards given each year celebrate faculty, staff, and students who have made significant contributions to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.

The Willie Hobbs Moore Achievement Award in particular honors individuals with exceptional achievements in STEM whose contributions are “particularly inspirational in light of the challenges or roadblocks they have faced in their pursuit of a STEM degree and/or career.”

Ensafi has long been a champion of equity in the field of computer science. Her contributions in this arena are informed by her own road to success, which has not been without obstacles. Having grown up in Iran, where she faced numerous limitations due to her gender and witnessed the effects of censorship firsthand, Ensafi has been inspired throughout her career to promote the values of democracy, freedom, and equity through her research.

With these tenets at the core, Ensafi’s work focuses on internet security and privacy, with the aim of developing systems and techniques to protect online users from censorship, surveillance, and discrimination.

One of her flagship initiatives is Censored Planet, a censorship measurement platform that analyzes and tracks internet censorship practices in over 200 countries using a variety of remote monitoring tools. Ensafi also led the development of VPNanalyzer, a cross-platform tool that allows users to efficiently and continuously monitor the security and privacy of commercial VPNs. 

Ensafi has received numerous recognitions in support of her research, including an NSF CAREER Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, the USENIX Security Internet Defense Prize, and more. Her work has been cited in widely read publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Newsweek, Wired, and Ars Technica. In 2021, she was invited to speak on democracy-affirming technology at the White House as part of President Biden’s Summit for Democracy.