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My Roots

My Roots: Bhavani Thuraisingham

The executive director of the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute at the University of Texas is considered one of the most accomplished experts in the nation.
Courtesy of Bhavani Thuraisingham
Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham is one of the most accomplished cybersecurity experts in the nation and is an advocate for women in the space along with her role as a professor of computer science and the founding executive director of the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Thuraisingham spent 24 years in the industry with Honeywell and Control Data Corporation and the National Science Foundation. Her work has focused on the theory of computation, computer network development, database security for the Armed Forces, designing a network operating system for NASA, data mining in the fight against terrorism, and more.

Thuraisingham’s work has also been published in more than 120 journals; she is a coveted conference speaker and works on publishing her 16th book. She has six patents and is an accomplished advocate for women in the industry. Numerous publications and organizations have named her one of the top women in cybersecurity in academia, including being named one of Information Security Solutions Review’s 10 Key Female Cybersecurity Leaders to Know in 2020.

“I’m Tamil, from Sri Lanka. I was born there and lived there for my first 20 years. Ours was a typical Sri Lankan family. My parents were somewhat conservative but also very dedicated to a very strong education for their daughters. Some of my relatives had boyfriends, and none of them married their boyfriends. I saw how things were very hard for them. Today, it’s different, but we are talking about almost 50 years ago. 

“I decided early on, when I was 14, not to have a boyfriend and just focus on my studies. So, my parents arranged a marriage for me. My husband also decided to marry someone that was arranged for him. My aunt and uncle brought my husband to the university, and we had lunch. That evening, my uncle said that my husband was interested in seeing me again the next day. I only had a day to decide, and I said yes because I was quite happy.

LEFT TO RIGHT Thuraisingham grew up with parents who prioritized her education, sending her to a private catholic school.; Pictured at age 3 in Sri Lanka, Thuraisingham would grow up to become a pioneer for women in cybersecurity.

“We got married, and then I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Bristol and the University of Swansea. We moved to the United States in 1980, when my husband got a position at New Mexico Tech Petroleum Discovery Research Center. I was offered a tenure track position, but I turned it down because my son was around eight months old at the time, and I wasn’t sure how long we would be in New Mexico. So, I got a visiting faculty position instead. My husband and I have been married for 45 years and are proud parents and grandparents.”   

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