U of A graduate student named Student of the Year by IBM Canada

Kristen Newbury lauded for her work building a prototype to improve app security for IBM Canada’s Center for Advanced Studies.

For many budding computing scientists, working with technology giant IBM Canada is the ultimate work-integrated learning experience. For University of Alberta graduate student Kristen Newbury, her time spent with IBM Canada was capped off with an extraordinary achievement—receiving the title of Student of the Year from IBM Canada’s Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). 

Newbury, a master’s student studying under the supervision of assistant professor Karim Ali in the Faculty of Science, received the award in recognition of her work developing a prototype designed to improve app security within the IBM ecosystem.

Kristen Newbury holds her IBM award
Kristen Newbury holds her 2020 Student of the Year award from IBM Canada. (Photo: Supplied)

“The prototype that we developed is a new method of improving application security,” said Newbury. “Specifically, it addresses the problem of applying security updates to software while the software applications are still running. This technique can complement pre-existing techniques to reduce complexity of software updates for system managers, and improve application security in a more timely manner than relying on pre-existing approaches alone.”  

Newbury mastered three complex systems to develop the prototype, which is a low-overhead runtime patching solution for use in the Eclipse OpenJ9 Java virtual machine.  

“Kristen’s work has made contributions important to IBM’s leadership in Java runtime technology and software security. Her master’s thesis was unanimously nominated for a departmental award by her defence committee at the University of Alberta,” said Steven Astorino, IBM Canada lab director and vice-president of data and AI development. 

“It was an experience that enriched my knowledge of both the technology that the project focused on, and relevant industry practices and standards.”

Kristen Newbury

“Through the IBM Center for Advanced Studies, IBM Canada is proud to foster innovation and facilitate opportunities for students like Kristen to gain real-world technical expertise and apply knowledge in the field,” Astorino added. 

“IBM Alberta CAS is proud to support the exceptional talent at the University of Alberta,” said Monica Sawchyn, executive director at the IBM Alberta Center for Advanced Studies. “This effort not only advances IBM's technology but helps to build the innovation ecosystem in the province with excellent people like Kristen.”

The project included a 10-month stint at the IBM Warden Lab in Toronto, the largest software development lab in Canada. “It was an experience that enriched my knowledge of both the technology that the project focused on, and, also of relevant industry practices and standards,” said Newbury. 

“To be recognized as student of the year is a great and humbling achievement, as it means that my work and effort is recognized by CAS as valuable and interesting, for which I am very grateful.”

Newbury is still hard at work on ways to incorporate the new technology into IBM systems, and encourages other students to take advantage of the kinds of opportunities her time at IBM CAS gave her. 

“Collaborations with industry and work-integrated learning are important for students so that they can gain first-hand experience for industry practices and standards,” she said. “This experience is very valuable for when students seek employment after their degree, and will help them prepare to integrate into an industry work environment.”

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