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Mustafa Abdallah awarded the Purdue Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship

Mustafa Abdallah awarded the Purdue Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship

Event Date: April 16, 2021
Mustafa Thesis Proposal
Mustafa successfully presenting his thesis proposal at the preliminary exam on April 16, the day after he was notified that he had won the Bilsland Fellowship.

Mustafa Abdallah, a DCSL member, has been awarded the Purdue Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University working with Professors Saurabh Bagchi and Shreyas Sundaram. His PhD work is exploring how interdependent systems' security can be enhanced by taking into account the incentives and collusion/cooperation of attackers and defenders.

The goal of the Bilsland Fellowship is to recognize exceptional candidates and also provide some financial support to help them focus on finishing their dissertation. This fellowship is competitive and is based on nomination by the advisor where recipients are selected for the fellowship based on intellectual merit, novel research contributions, awards, GPA, service, and mentoring. Mustafa will use the fellowship to support work toward his PhD dissertation at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University. The Fellowship covers tuition and living expenses for one academic semester.

Mustafa was born in Cairo, Egypt. He traces his passion to pursue engineering - finding ways to utilize mathematics to model and solve real engineering problems. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Cairo University in 2012, and the M.Sc. degree in Engineering Mathematics in 2016 from the same university.

To date, Mustafa's work has blazed a promising new direction in the design of security decision making to improve the human decision-making in the security of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS). Inspired by research in behavioral economics that has shown that humans perceive gains, losses and probabilities in a nonlinear manner. Mustafa's work has established rigorous mathematical frameworks for studying the effect of that human behavioral decision-making bias on security resource allocation problem in both large-scale interdependent systems and heterogeneous isolated assets managed by human decision-makers. This has led to new and important insights into security vulnerabilities that arise in such settings.

Mustafa says: "We have proposed novel mathematical behavioral security game models for the study of human decision-making in interdependent systems modeled by directed attack graphs. We have showed that behavioral biases lead to suboptimal resource allocation patterns in the attack graph's edges. The research has also developed practical algorithms that have been demonstrated to improve the security of real-world interconnected systems."

Mustafa has co-authored 10 articles in his Ph.D. work, including Behavioral and game-theoretic security investments in interdependent systems modeled by attack graphs, published in IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems in December 2020 and Morshed: Guiding Behavioral Decision-Makers towards Better Security Investment in Interdependent Systems, accepted to appear at the 16th ACM Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security (ASIACCS) conference.

Mustafa who expects to graduate in the spring of 2022, looks forward to becoming a tenure-track faculty member so he can teach and continue conducting research and explore more challenging research problems.

I really want to thank Professors Saurabh Bagchi and Shreyas Sundaram for nominating me to for this Fellowship, he said. Professors Bagchi and Sundaram also have given me many wise ideas and suggestions for both my PhD study and the Fellowship application.