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Lixia Zhang named to UCLA's Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Science

Lixia-Zhang
Lixia Zhang

By Wileen Wong Kromhout

Lixia Zhang, a professor of computer science at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named the holder of the school's Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Science.

The chair, established through an endowed fund initially created by a distinguished group of Jonathan Postel's friends and family, honors the famed computer scientist's lifetime achievements and his contributions to the development and management of the Internet.

Known as one of the Internet's pioneers, Postel was a three-time graduate of UCLA Engineering, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and his Ph.D. in computer science. As part of professor Leonard Kleinrock's ARPANET team at UCLA, he was one of the programmers who helped create the Internet's precursor.

After graduation, Postel continued his Internet and networking research at the nonprofit MITRE Corp. and the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) before moving on to a 21-year career at the University of Southern California's Information Science Institute.

His research contributions included Internet protocol design and verification, multimedia computing and communications, electronic commerce, the Internet domain-name system, and a range of additional Internet protocols.

Over the years, Postel became a leading spokesman for and architect of systematic organization in the rapidly growing online community and was recognized worldwide for his major role in the development and management of the Internet. He died in 1998.

This chair is one of two at the school established in honor of Postel. The other, the Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Networking, is held by Deborah Estrin, a distinguished professor of computer science who specializes in mobile technologies and applications, environmental sensing systems, Internet protocols and architecture, and open systems.

The Postel Chair in Computer Science is intended for a faculty member of significant stature in computer science who will continue the great strides Postel made in Internet-related research. Lixia Zhang is widely respected among the Internet community for her major contributions to Internet architecture and protocol designs.

"Lixia's research will have major implications for the future of the Internet," said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. "As its birthplace, UCLA Engineering continues to be at the forefront of the development and advancement of this global network. The Postel Chair will help support Lixia's important work as a top educator and researcher in this area."

In 1999, Zhang coined the term "middlebox" to refer to the new components that are not in the original IP (Internet protocol) architecture. The term was quickly picked up by the community and is now used everywhere. In 2008, IEEE Network magazine dedicated a special issue to the topic, titled "Implications and Control of Middleboxes in the Internet."

Zhang's research group has been tackling topics like resiliency, security issues in the global routing system and domain name system (DNS), and the system challenges in deploying cryptographic protections in global-scale open systems such as the Internet. Her group has developed several Internet monitoring tools which are widely used by the Internet research and operational communities.

"It is an honor to be named the Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Science," Zhang said. "I consider myself fortunate to have joined Internet research early on and to have had opportunities to work closely with Dr. Postel. My career goal is to not only help the Internet grow but to also help train new generations of Internet engineers and researchers by teaching students how to think architecturally."

Zhang has already received several accolades for her work. Just two years ago, she was honored with the 2009 IEEE Internet Award for her contributions toward developing the Internet's architecture. Her research was included among the 10 landmark articles printed in the 50th anniversary issue of IEEE Communications Magazine in 2002. She is a fellow of both the IEEE and the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).

Since 2010, Zhang has been leading a 12-campus project, with more than $8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, to develop a new Internet architecture called Named Data Networking (NDN), which holds great promise for meeting the challenges and opportunities presented by computing in the 21st century.