Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Lixia Zhang, PhD '89

Researcher played key role in developing Internet architecture

As a teenager in northern China during the Cultural Revolution, Lixia Zhang worked full time on a farm, since high schools and colleges were closed. “Luckily, my elders privately encouraged me to study and told me science moves humanity forward,” says Zhang, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and cochair of the Internet Research Task Force’s Routing Research Group.

She took the advice, learning English and calculus on her own. When China’s educational institutions reopened in 1978, Zhang lost no time. She passed the nationwide graduate-school entrance exam with top scores and was chosen to study in the United States, where she earned a master’s in electrical engineering at California State University at Los Angeles in 1981. After her PhD studies at MIT, Zhang joined the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and then moved to UCLA in 1996.

This story is part of the November/December 2009 Issue of the MIT News magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Today Zhang’s work is widely hailed in Internet circles for improving protocol designs and security. She was honored with the 2009 Internet Award at the 17th IEEE International Conference on Network Protocols for her contributions toward developing the Internet’s architecture. She is an IEEE Fellow, and her work was among the 10 landmark articles printed in the 50th-anniversary issue of IEEE Communications Magazine.

Zhang sees security as a top challenge for the Internet today. “It can be daunting, thinking about defending the global infrastructure on which so much depends,” she says. “But the Internet’s sheer size and its dense connectivity bring advantages. While there are vulnerabilities, there are also redundancies and many people monitoring the infrastructure 24/7.”

During her first years in the United States, Zhang struggled with English and with gaps in her earlier education. “Luckily, the student center at MIT was open 24 hours and served coffee,” she says. “I spent many overnights there catching up on course work.” And her MIT advisor, senior research scientist David Clark, SM ‘68, EE ‘68, PhD ‘73, was “a magical teacher who guided and supported me for eight years,” she says. “Dave taught me what the Internet is.”

Zhang lives with her husband, Jim Ma, and their 16-year-old son, Shawn, in Sherman Oaks, CA. The couple’s elder son, Zane, is a sophomore at Princeton University. Whenever she has time–which she admits is not often–Zhang loves to read. She especially enjoys the famous Feynman Lectures on Physics series, which she says “teach me not only physics, but how to look at problems and conduct research.”

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.