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Computer science student garners national honorable mention for undergraduate research

Colleen Carow | Jan 27, 2020
sage sefton on ohio university west green

Computer science student garners national honorable mention for undergraduate research

Colleen Carow | Jan 27, 2020

Sage Sefton, a computer science senior in the Honors Tutorial College, has been recognized with an honorable mention for the Computing Research Association (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award.

The award recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research. Sefton was honored for her research in hardware security with Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Avinash Karanth and Assistant Professor Gordon Stewart, as well as research she performed during her nationally competitive Ernest F. Hollings internship.

Sefton said the honorable mention feels like a great accomplishment, but she still has many goals before graduating this spring.

“I still have a lot I want to do before I leave OHIO -- I want to implement our project for modern processors,” Sefton said. “I see this as a nice little checkup that I’m doing well.”

The hardware security project, “GARUDA: Designing Energy-Efficient Hardware Monitors From High-Level Policies for Secure Information Flow,” originated with Karanth in spring 2017, when Sefton and Karanth surveyed current hardware solutions. Sefton then worked with Stewart to implement a new language, eventually publishing in IEEE.

“I decided we needed some way to make this accessible to non-specialists. The research was confusing, and it felt critical,” Sefton said. “Software can be secure, but that’s assuming the hardware works as intended. If the hardware can steal information without software’s knowledge, then it doesn’t matter how much work you’ve put into securing the software.”

Karanth’s support of Sefton dates back to her third day as a student at OHIO.

“Sage continues to impress me with her curiosity, determination and hard work,” Karanth said. “She very much deserves the CRA undergraduate researcher recognition for her effort and dedication, and I’m confident that she will succeed in her graduate studies.”

Sefton was one of just 150 students nationwide in 2018 to win the Hollings scholarship, a nationally competitive award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During her summer internship, she worked on automated counting of seals and sea lions, ultimately creating a scoring program in the programming language Python. Most recently, she and Assistant Professor of EECS Frank Drews processed data on prostate cancer in dogs for the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“If there is one thing that has contributed to my success the most, it is the connections I have made in the Russ College and across the university,” she said.

Sefton plans to attend graduate school for hardware security, computer science, or tissue engineering.