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Towsley Receives 2023 Euler Award from the Network Science Society

Don Towsley
Don Towsley

Distinguished Professor Don Towsley of the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) at UMass Amherst is the 2023 recipient of the Euler Award from the Network Science Society for his foundational contributions to network tomography in classical and quantum communication networks. 

The Euler Award is conferred yearly for outstanding research discoveries in the field of network science, especially those that changed paradigms or assumptions. Towsley, who has taught computing at UMass Amherst since 1976, is an acknowledged pioneer in networking who in 1999 developed the first rigorous methodology for performing internet tomography, a technique for inferring internal network behavior based solely on end-to-end measurements.  

The key idea in developing internet tomography was to use the correlation inherent in the performance observed in multicast packets to develop maximum likelihood estimates of link-level metrics such as loss rates and delay statistics, as well as a network's internal topology. This work received the ACM SIGMETRICS Test of Time Award in 2012 and has stimulated considerable research in industry and peer academic institutions. 

In 2020, Towsley and colleagues received a five-year, $26 million initial grant from the National Science Foundation to form a new Engineering Research Center, the Center for Quantum Networks, where he co-leads one of three research thrusts focused on quantum network architecture and performs research on fundamental performance limits of quantum networks. A major direction of his research within the center is extending and applying the earlier tomography techniques to quantum networks. 

In 2021, his paper, "A Quantum Walk Control Plane for Distributed Quantum Computing in Quantum Networks," won Best Paper Award from the IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering, one of 23 papers he published on quantum computing and networking in journals and conference proceedings from 2015-2023.   

Thanks to a seed fund created by anonymous donors, including a gift of $5 million, Towsley is leading the creation of a UMass Amherst center of excellence to support research in quantum information systems. This center, bringing together researchers from CICS, the College of Engineering, and the College of Natural Sciences, will work on building quantum computers and developing a 'quantum internet' to provide network security and to connect these new quantum computers. 

Previously, Towsley contributed foundational research to the development of modern TCP. In a series of papers with colleagues starting in 1998, he developed the first model of the TCP protocol, accurately capturing TCP's principal features of congestion avoidance and timeouts, and the first fluid model of a network carrying TCP traffic. The latter has led to new network controllers widely used in cable networks and to the foundation of the IETF multipath TCP (MPTCP) standard. 

With a student and colleagues, Towsley conceptualized a new area of information-theoretic security and established experimentally validated fundamental limits on the number of bits that can be transmitted reliably from a transmitter to an intended recipient without detection by an attentive adversary. This new research area, known as "covert communications," has application in scenarios where hiding the existence of a signal can be critical. 

Towsley has made other pioneering contributions to the field of network modeling and analysis, ranging from the development of stochastic sample path and bounding techniques to the analysis of video streaming systems. He has published more than 500 papers, with over 80,000 citations, and has an H-index of 141. He has 11 US patents. 

He is a fellow of IEEE and the ACM, and has received numerous awards, including thirteen conference best paper awards, four test of time awards, the IEEE INFOCOM Achievement Award, the ACM SIGCOMM Lifetime Achievement Award, the ACM SIGMETRICS Achievement Award, the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Award, the IEEE Communications Society Bennett Award, and the Chancellor's Medal from UMass Amherst. He is widely known as a leader in his profession whose work has had real-world impact. He has served on numerous editorial boards and co-chaired program committees of conferences including IEEE Infocom, IFIP Performance, and ACM SIGMETRICS. He is one of the founders of the Computer Performance Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the area of computer and network modeling. 

At UMass Amherst, Towsley founded and leads the Advanced Classical and Quantum Information Research Lab. He joined the university in 1976 as an assistant professor, and has also served as a visiting professor and researcher at Universite Pierre et Marie Curie and INRIA in France, Christ's College in the UK, and research labs at AT&T, IBM, and Microsoft.