Wayne State chemical engineering student places second in research competition at AIChE regional event

Katie TyrrellWhen securing chemical plants and laboratories, keeping computers and networks free from vulnerabilities is as important as maintaining the safety of the worksite itself. Cloud computing is a preferred method to satisfy an increase in computational demands, but transmitting data over a remote server can present security risks.

Katie Tyrrell, a senior chemical engineering student at Wayne State University, explored cybersecurity challenges in the field of chemical process control, looking specifically at variations of homomorphic encryption. Presenting on work performed under the supervision of Assistant Professor Helen Durand, Tyrrell earned second place in the student technical presentation competition at the 2021 AIChE North-Central Student Regional Conference, hosted by Ohio State University in April.

"I've been investigating how existing cybersecurity and encryption techniques have been applied to the field of chemical process control, with the goal of working towards improved security for more mathematically advanced process control techniques," explained Tyrrell, who also studies statistics and linguistics at Wayne State. "Specifically, I've been looking at encryption schemes that allow calculations to be done on encrypted data, which would allow cloud computing where the third-party cloud can't see any sensitive information.

The conference gathered representatives of AIChE student chapters from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Tyrrell, who served last year as secretary of Wayne State's chapter and will take on the role of president in the upcoming year, competed against a student from the University of Minnesota and two from the University of Toledo.

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