The Department of Energy has awarded University of Central Florida assistant professor Yier Jin a grant worth at least $750,000 to fund his research in developing high-performance computing platforms that are hardened and secure enough to thwart hackers.

The funding of $150,000 a year for five years comes from the DOE’s Early Career Research Program, which aims to support exceptional scientists during the formative years of their research.

“We invest in promising young researchers early in their careers to support lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said Cherry Murray, director of DOE’s Office of Science. “We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists already have made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”

Jin, of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering & Computer Science, said technology advances have made computer systems the target of increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats. That includes high-performance computing platforms used in commercial and scientific applications that may hold sensitive or even classified data.

There’s a shortage of security solutions that are both efficient and effective, but Jin is advancing state-of-the-art solutions that address those problems. By considering both hardware and software, his cyberdefense solutions yield highly resilient systems without sacrificing performance.

“High-performance computing systems are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks,” Jin said. “Our solution is one of the few solutions to leverage hardware-software co-design for high-performance computing protection that will help secure existing and future platforms.”

The DOE selected 49 scientists for the early career grants, including 27 from U.S. universities and 22 from the department’s national laboratories.

To be eligible for the DOE award, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory who received a Ph.D. within the past 10 years.

Jin earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. He was awarded a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Yale University in 2012, and came to UCF the same year.

Jin drew national media attention in 2014 when he and other UCF researchers investigated “internet of things” security and revealed that the popular Nest smart-thermostat can be used by hackers to gain access to home networks.