J. Alex Halderman installed as Bredt Family Professor of Engineering

The endowed professorship recognizes Prof. Halderman’s record of accomplishment and excellence in computer and network security.
Prof. J. Alex Halderman gives a lecture in front of a full room
Prof. J. Alex Halderman delivered a lecture titled “Science in the Service of Democracy” at a ceremony celebrating his installation as the Bredt Family Professor of Engineering.

J. Alex Halderman was installed as the Bredt Family Professor of Engineering in a ceremony celebrating his achievements on October 30, 2023. The appointment honors his outstanding contributions to computer science and engineering more broadly.

The ceremony featured introductory remarks by Prof. Michael Wellman, Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of Computer Science and Engineering, and Prof. Steven Ceccio, Vincent T. and Gloria M. Gorguze Professor of Engineering and Interim Dean of Engineering. Zakir Durumeric, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and Halderman’s former PhD student, as well as Andrew Appel, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University and Halderman’s PhD advisor, also gave remarks.

The ceremony featured a lecture by Halderman titled “Science in the Service of Democracy,” in which he outlined his major contributions to the field, including his founding of the world’s largest HTTPS certificate authority, Let’s Encrypt, and his work to identify and resolve security vulnerabilities in election technology.

Halderman is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Director of the U-M Center for Computer Security and Society, and Director of the CSE Systems Lab.

His research focuses on the science of computer and network security, with particular attention to the societal implications of security issues and engagement in public policy to address these implications. Through his research and advocacy, he aims to create a more secure and democratic technology future. One way he does this is by exposing and helping us to understand novel vulnerabilities and emerging threats. 

Beyond simply identifying system vulnerabilities, Halderman works painstakingly to explain the dynamics behind the problems he finds, and offers constructive solutions (where possible), as well as assessing the limitations of those solutions.

In this way, Halderman has become one of the nation’s foremost experts in election cybersecurity, with his work revealing fundamental security issues inherent in online voting platforms. Testimony he gave to the U.S. Congress helped secure more than $800 million in new federal funding to the states for securing elections. He also co-chairs the State of Michigan’s election security advisory commission. 

Halderman leads the Refraction Networking Coalition, a multi-institutional collaboration that develops and operates network infrastructure to allow users to route around online censorship. He has also founded two successful security-focused organizations based on his research: Censys, a leading attack-surface management company, and Let’s Encrypt, which helps protect nearly 330 million websites, including Wikipedia and the White House.

Prof. Halderman poses for a picture with Michael Wellman and Steve Ceccio.
From left: Prof. Michael Wellman, Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of Computer Science and Engineering; Prof. J. Alex Halderman, newly installed Bredt Family Professor of Engineering; and Prof. Steven Ceccio, Vincent T. and Gloria M. Gorguze Professor of Engineering and Interim Dean of Engineering.

Halderman has received six best paper awards from leading publication venues, the 2022 Levchin Prize from the International Association for Cryptologic Research, and the 2022 Internet Defense Prize. He also received the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the University of Michigan President’s Award for National and State Leadership.

Halderman received his A.B. (2003), his M.A. (2005), and his Ph.D. (2009), in computer science from Princeton University. Following graduation, Halderman joined the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 2015 and to professor in 2016.

Endowed professorships are essential to Michigan Engineering. Appointment to an endowed professorship is an honor reserved for scholars of national and often international stature who have earned a highly distinguished record of teaching, research, and publication. These professorships, funded and named by donors, bring prestige and recognition to leading members of our faculty and reward their contributions to the institution and to the field.

About the Bredt Family

Thomas and Polly Bredt

Thomas and Polly Bredt met as undergraduates at U-M (1962 College of Engineering and 1963 College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, respectively). Tom rowed for the Detroit Boat Club; he and Polly bonded over their shared love of race boats on the Detroit River, and married in June of 1963.

Tom earned a master’s in electrical engineering from New York University and a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford, where he also was on the electrical engineering faculty. Polly was a doctoral student in the speech and hearing sciences at Michigan and has worked as a speech pathologist. Tom’s career path included a faculty position at Stanford, roles at Hewlett-Packard and Dataquest, and finally as Partner at Menlo Ventures.

Before Tom passed away in 2022, he and Polly enjoyed a multifaceted life together, engaging in the Arts and in furthering educational possibilities for students and faculty at Michigan Engineering and at Stanford School of Medicine. They have also provided critical support to UMMA. As a volunteer, Tom revived the Tahoe Maritime Museum and helped it achieve great success for many years. This was a proud achievement for Tom and Polly. Tom and Polly also shared a love for travel and explorations, and for vacations that nearly always involved being on the waters of Lake Tahoe in California and Walloon Lake in Michigan.

Polly lives in Menlo Park, CA, near her daughter and grandchildren.