Graduate student named Student of the Year by IBM Canada

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

Katie Willis - 12 November 2020

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

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

“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.”

The prototype 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 defense committee at the University of Alberta,” said Steven Astorino, IBM Canada Lab Director and VP, Data & AI Development. “Through the IBM Centre 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.” 

Monica Sawchyn, Executive Director at the IBM Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies, said: “IBM Alberta CAS is proud to support the exceptional talent at the University of Alberta. 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, Ontario. “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 reflects on her time at IBM CAS fondly. “Collaborations with industry and work-integrated learning are important for students so that they can gain firsthand experience for industry practices and standards,” said Newbury. “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.”

Newbury was recognized with the Student of the Year award presented at CASCON, an annual conference sponsored by IBM Canada.

Learn more about work-integrated and experiential learning in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science.