Kate Riordan, a rising sophomore majoring in cybersecurity and global policy at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been honored with the 2021 Executive Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity by IU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The award, which is one of the highest undergraduate honors handed out by the College, recognized Riordan for her work with Associate Professor of Informatics Sameer Patil to improve the user experience with the Tor Browser, a free and open-source internet browser that protects privacy by masking a user’s identity.
“I’m honored to receive this recognition for my work with Professor Patil,” Riordan said. “It has been a very engaging experience as I have been allowed to design and execute my own study with his guidance.”
Riordan, who also serves as a Luddy Ambassador, will recruit and observe people using the Tor browser to suggest user experience improvements to the Tor Project, the non-profit that oversees the browser and underlying network.
“By uncovering issues people face, we can make the Tor browser easier for anyone to use regardless of technical expertise. Such improvements can especially have a profound impact on those living in regimes where access to online information may be restricted and not having privacy for online activities can expose one to various risks,” Riordan said. “This award encourages us to continue with our work.”
Riordan, a Columbus, Indiana native, is also part of the National Security Innovation Network X-Force Fellowship program sponsored by the United States Department of Defense.
“Although she is still a freshman, Kate has demonstrated creativity, leadership, and independence beyond her years in designing and conducting research,” Patil said. “Given the ubiquity and dominance of mobile devices in everyday life, the research study Kate is undertaking has the potential to make a substantial practical contribution for improving the UX of the Tor Browser on mobile devices in particular. Kate is an exceptionally talented student who is fast developing into an impactful researcher and scholar.”