Logo: University of Southern California

USC Viterbi Student Named Google Fellow

Moshref Javadi one of only 15 Ph.D. students nationwide named to prestigious fellowship
By: Greg Hardesty
June 10, 2015 —

Moshref Javadi, PhD candidate at USC.  (Image: Courtesy of Moshref Javadi)
The college student is writing on walls again.

Wielding a purple marker, Masoud Moshref Javadi scrawls out the words “Mobile,” “Internet,” “Data Centers” and “Distributed Systems” on a wall in a lounge in the Networked Systems Laboratory (NSL) in the Salvatori Computer Science Center.

Luckily for Moshref Javadi, all the walls in the lounge double as erasable whiteboards — or this USC Viterbi School of Engineering Ph.D. candidate would have some problems with building maintenance staff.

Far from engaging in some mindless doodling, Moshref Javadi writes as he explains his research in computer networking — research that, in February, was recognized with the prestigious Google Ph.D. Fellowship. The two-year fellowship includes tuition and fees, a $34,000 yearly stipend and a Google research mentor. It “raises the profile of the department significantly,” said Professor Ramesh Govindan, one of Moshref Javadi’s Ph.D. advisors and the Northrop Grumman Chair in Engineering.

Moshref Javadi, 30, was one of only 15 Ph.D. students nationwide awarded the fellowship, and the only one in computer networking.

“Writing (computer) programs involves creativity — like having a canvas for painting,” Moshref Javadi said. “You’re trying to create something.”

He said he was surprised and honored to win the fellowship.

“It gave me a real sense that people appreciate what I’ve been doing, and makes me think that what I’m doing (in a research lab) is related to what is needed in the real world of computer networking,” Moshref Javadi said.

Affable and polite, the married father of an infant son patiently explained the gist of his award-winning research. His work sheds much-needed light on how data traffic flows in large, high-capacity computer networks.

Companies spend billions of dollars building such networks, but have little insight into how traffic flows. New technology Moshref Javadi is developing could greatly impact the computer network field by allowing companies to use their networks much more efficiently — say, by having the underlying layer of a network operating system automatically allocate resources between different measurement applications to where they are needed most at any given time.

Moshref Javadi’s doctoral thesis examines fast network switches that not only route traffic but also measure traffic within each switch. He is creating methods to extract such measurements from the hundreds of switches that constitute a network, and making sense of these measurements so operators and network engineers can take appropriate action to most efficiently move the flow of high-speed data.

His research, his advisors said, could help computer networking companies get a better handle on the causes of traffic-related problems they routinely experience while striving to maintain the highest levels of speed, reliability and security.

“Masoud is especially good at designing novel algorithms to solve real-world problems in today’s data center networks,” said Minlan Lu, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, who along with Govindan, serves as Moshref Javadi’s Ph.D. advisor.

“The problems he solves are often the fundamental problems big data center companies like Google care a lot about,” Lu said.

Moshref Javadi is the USC Viterbi Department of Computer Science's second Google Ph.D. Fellowship winner, after Sumita Barahmand, who won the fellowship in 2013 for her work in cloud computing and now works for Microsoft.

“We hope this award will spur other of our wonderful Ph.D. students to strive for national recognition of this kind,” Govindan added.

Moshref Javadi grew up in Isfahan, Iran. His father is a financial consultant and his mother a housewife. He has three brothers and one sister. From middle school on, he was recognized as an exceptional student. It wasn’t until he studied at a specialty high school for exceptionally talented teens that he was introduced to computers.

“From that day on, I became very interested in them,” Moshref Javadi said.

He went on to graduate with honors from Iran’s top university for engineering, Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, where he earned a master’s degree in IT engineering. His thesis dealt with a hybrid peer-to-peer architecture for real-time, layered video streaming over the Internet.

He became a Ph.D. student in computer engineering at USC in 2010 and currently holds down a 3.97 GPA, with plans to graduate in May 2016 — halfway through his Google Ph.D. Fellowship.

Moshref Javadi credited his professors at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering for much of his success.

“Their mentorship skills are very good,” Moshref Javadi said. “They encourage students. Even though a possible solution may end up not working, they always motivate me to try to find one.”