REZA Z’ABA (INTAKE 2001)

I was exposed to computers during my primary school years at a time when Microsoft Windows 3.11 still existed and multiple 3 ½-inch floppy disks were used to install a program, i.e. in the 1990s. I was intrigued by what computers can do and this motivated me to undertake my bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Systems (Fakulti Sains Komputer dan Sistem Maklumat – FSKSM), UTM which what Faculty of Computing was called back then. In my third year, I chose the Computer Systems and Communications (Sistem dan Komunikasi Komputer – SKK) track because the elective courses such as cryptography and computer security are more to my liking.

Reza in London

Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I developed a profound interest in both programming and computer security. At that time, I could not wait to graduate and get a job as a programmer. However, Allah knows best and during my last semester, I was approached by Pn. Subariah Ibrahim, who invited me to join a research project on cryptography. It was not long until she convinced me to enrol in a masters by research programme at the faculty and later, persuaded me to apply for a scholarship.

 

In 2006, I was offered a scholarship by MIMOS Berhad to pursue my PhD studies at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia. I never imagined that I would do a PhD and when the offer came, I was halfway through my master’s program. Since such opportunity seldom knocks twice, I grabbed the offer and left FSKSM without finishing my masters. Fortunately, I was able to continue my research into symmetric cryptography for the PhD and got the chance to meet many other researchers in QUT. The highlight of my PhD was when my research article was accepted to be published at the prestigious Fast Software Encryption (FSE) conference in 2008. I also got to travel to a lot of countries to present my work such as Norway, Switzerland, China, Singapore and New Zealand.

 

Mingling with kangaroos during my years at Queensland, Australia

Mingling with kangaroos during my years in Queensland, Australia

After graduating in 2010, I started working at MIMOS as a researcher. My responsibilities in the company include conducting research and development work, overseeing projects and providing consultation to both internal and external parties, in the area of cryptography and information security. While in MIMOS, I was given the opportunity to be involved in various activities and committees within the government, academia and industry. One interesting ongoing engagement that I wish to mention is assisting the National Security Council (Majlis Keselamatan Negara) to come up with specific action plans to implement the National Cryptography Policy (Dasar Kriptografi Negara). I hope my small contribution would greatly benefit the nation. Being a researcher also brought me to countries like the United States, Denmark and South Korea. I am still very much involved in cryptography-related work and intend to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

 

During my 3-month attachment at Denmark

During my 3-month attachment at Denmark

 

So far, my journey has been amazing and I thank Allah for introducing me to all the wonderful people at FSKSM (now Faculty of Computing), especially those at SKK department (now part of the Department of Computer Science). Special thanks to Dr. Subariah (who has recently retired) for persuading me to further my studies and apply for a scholarship. It was the ultimate decision that largely determined my career path. I thank Prof. Dr. Aizaini and Prof. Dr. Kamarulnizam for being my supervisors during my postgraduate days and En. Firoz for supervising my final-year undergraduate project. My heartfelt gratitude also goes to Cik Marina, Cik Hazinah, Puan Mazura, Dr. Maznah, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mazleena, Dr. Anazida, En. Muhalim and Prof. Dr. Abdul Hanan for the various roles all of you have played when I was a student at the faculty.

Written by Muhammad Reza bin Z’aba (Class of 2004)