September 12, 2022


MILWAUKEE — Dr. Keke Chen, an associate professor of computer science at the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute at Marquette University’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study confidential computing solutions within the framework of a scientific collaboration.

Chen’s research project, “Confidential Computing in Reproducible Collaborative Workflows,” was funded by NSF’s Cybersecurity Innovation for Cyberinfrastructure program. NSF CICI supports research on securing scientific data, workflows, and infrastructure in three priority areas: usable and collaborative security for science; reference scientific safety data sets; and the discovery of vulnerabilities in scientific infrastructures.

“Data-intensive scientific research projects often involve multiple collaborative parties, each of which may require confidential treatment of their sensitive assets to protect intellectual property or embargoed sharing of data or algorithms before publishing a paper,” Chen said. “Integrating confidential computing into reproducible scientific workflows raises significant but understudied challenges. This project aims to identify these unique challenges and seek new solutions.

This study will focus on the effective approach of hardware-based confidential computing, Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) for scientific data analysis applications. Researchers will examine solutions for the development of a science-oriented TEE with trade-offs between usability and security guarantees. They will also study unique attacks derived from the interaction between confidential components and a reproducible workflow to develop mitigation methods based on the attack study to ensure reproducibility and security of the workflow.

“This is a remarkable research opportunity for Dr. Chen to foster collaboration and innovation,” said Dr. Heidi Bostic, Dean of Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Chen and his research team seek to eliminate issues of confidentiality and privacy that can get in the way of open collaboration and collaborative science. Their research can also be extended to other confidential computing scenarios on platforms. possibly untrusted forms, including the cloud-based applications we use every day.His work is a great example of Marquette’s exceptional strengths in computer science and data science.

Chen’s team includes co-investigators Dr. Zeno Franco, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Dr. Zeyun Yu, professor of computer science and biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. Ning Jenny Jiang, J. Peter and Geri Skirkanich Associate Professor of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania, is an independent consultant.

The broader impacts will be felt across the board, improving the cybersecurity program curriculum at Marquette; generate new course materials for Marquette’s data science curriculum and UWM’s bioinformatics curriculum; contribute to computer education in local secondary schools; attract underrepresented and undergraduate students into cybersecurity and data science research through Marquette’s programs; and strengthening the university’s collaboration with industrial partners.


About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the Associate Director of Academic Communications in the Office of Marketing and Communications. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or [email protected]