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Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson Names New C. Tycho Howle Endowed Chair

Aug 14, 2018 04:07PM ● By Kathleen Maris

Sally McKee, an accomplished scholar whose research is advancing cybersecurity in a world of growing threats, will be installed Aug. 20 as the C. Tycho Howle chair in collaborative computing environments at Clemson University.

McKee will be honored during convocation at Littlejohn Coliseum.

McKee, who comes from a family of teachers, received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University, master’s degree from Princeton University and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, all in computer science.

Her most recent occupation prior to joining Clemson in January was a sabbatical at Rambus, Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., where one of her projects dealt with memory systems to support quantum computing. McKee’s return to higher education allows her to pursue her passion for helping students.

“I like the fact that I have the ability to help make other people’s dreams and goals happen,” she said. “Just being able to have a positive influence on students’ lives is fantastic.”

Matching dollars for the collaborative computing chair are provided by South Carolina’s SmartState program, which is aimed at encouraging economic growth in key clusters. As part of the program, McKee will oversee the Center of Economic Excellence in Collaborative Computing.

“The role she is serving is very important in today's world, whether the research be for the nation's electrical grid or for research toward an implanted medical sensor reporting information back to an external monitor,” Howle said. “In such cases, data compromise could be catastrophic.”

McKee’s research focus is in high-performance, high-efficiency [MOU1] computing, especially memory systems.

“It doesn’t matter how fast your processor is if you can’t keep it fed with instructions and data,” she said. “So a lot of what I’ve done is work on memory systems, trying to break the memory bottleneck or find ways around it.”

That includes trying to figure out what slows things down or where the energy is going, McKee said.

Howle, a Lancaster native, is a retired CEO and civic leader, supporting several causes through the C. Tycho and Marie Howle Foundation.

Howle welcomed McKee to the Clemson family.

"A number of research initiatives are underway across multiple disciplines at Clemson that require the use of advanced computing systems, data storage and information transfer across networks,” he said. “Wouldn't it be great if we could incorporate best practices for cybersecurity for processors, memory, and network security into the early-design stages of our research projects rather than trying to add protection as an afterthought as the research is nearing its conclusion?

“Sally and her team's mission will be to help the Clemson research family build cybersecurity best practices into Clemson research from project outset."

McKee has extensive experience in higher education. She was a professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, an assistant professor at Cornell University, a research assistant professor and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Utah, and an adjunct assistant professor at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology.

McKee’s role at Clemson will be to serve as the leader and role model in research, education, and scholarship in areas of robust cyberinfrastructure, including computing and network security. She will bridge and integrate research and educational activities at Clemson in advanced computing systems and networks, advanced computer architecture, and cybersecurity.

McKee is now recruiting graduate students and preparing to teach a fall seminar on memory systems and technologies that will include some of what she learned about quantum computing at Rambus. In spring, she plans to teach an undergraduate advanced computer architecture course.

McKee is also working to create a program that would allow as many as four students to study under Martin Schulz at the Technical University of Munich.

“That’s going to be a great way to kick off some longer term collaborations with that institution,” she said.