Nicol: Herman M. Dieckamp Endowed Chair in Engineering

Chair: Herman M. Dieckamp Endowed Chair in Engineering

The Herman M. Dieckamp Endowed Chair in Engineering was made possible by the generous support of Herman Dieckamp. The Herman M. Dieckamp Endowment Fund supports the endowed chair position, student internships with industry partners, professional development support, infrastructure support, and other activities that enhance the university’s expertise and reputation in system reliability, security, and trust.

Herman Dieckamp was born in 1928 in Jacksonville, Illinois, the son of German emigrants Frederick and Marie Maier Dieckamp. He attended a one-room parochial school. He graduated in 1950 from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering physics. He chose Illinois in part because of its engineering program.  With a strong background in the fundamentals of math and physics, he positioned himself for a thriving career in energy – a field then undergoing transformative changes with the emergence of nuclear technology.

After nearly 40 years in the nuclear energy industry, Herman retired as president and chief operating officer of General Public Utilities. He believed there’s an important place in the energy industry for safe nuclear technology, and hoped his investment in building fail-safe systems at Illinois would create “extreme reliability” in nuclear plans and other critical infrastructure.  Herman passed away on Friday, August 16, 2019 at the age of 91.

Faculty: David M. Nicol

David Malcolm Nicol
David Malcolm Nicol

David M. Nicol is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and since 2011 has served as the Director of the Information Trust Institute (ITI), the focal point at UIUC for large-scale research projects in areas related to the trustworthiness of "systems", which include cyber-physical systems, industrial control systems, and most specifically, critical infrastructures such as electrical power, oil and gas,  and communications.   He is the Principal Investigator for the DOE funded "Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium"---a 7 year project involving 14 universities and national laboratories---focused on research leading to impact on industrial practice and products.  He is also the Principal Investigator (and Director) of the DHS supported "Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute" (also funded for 7 years) which is focused on research leading to industrial and societal impact on the resilience of critical infrastructures to deleterious events, both accidental and intentional.   He is the architect and Principal Investigator of the "Trustworthy and Secure Cyber-Plexus" (TCSP) project funded (in Singapore) by Singapore's National Research Foundation under their CREATE program.  TSCP does research leading to technologies which improve the security of legacy electrical power systems.  Nicol serves as the Director of the University of Illinois' Advanced Digital Sciences Centre in Singapore, which is home to TCSP.

Nicol develops technologies that assess the trustworthiness of critical infrastructures and assess the risk of those critical infrastructures to accidental and intentionally generated upset events. He brings to these tasks career-long experience in developing means of modeling large-scale systems, and of using high performance parallel computation to evaluate those models.  His ground-breaking work in this area led to provably optimal techniques for synchronizing computational resources along a virtual time axis, techniques which are encoded in a federal standard and are in wide-spread use by industry and government.

Nicol's research focuses on problems related to creating and accurately coordinating representation of critical infrastructure systems which include analytic and simulation models of the physical structures, and how these representations are affected by models of the sensors, control devices, and communication infrastructure.  These representations merge the evaluation of simulation models, execution of code from real devices, and the functioning of actual devices themselves.   He researches means by which such systems can be instrumented to provide provably effective monitoring of system activity and protection against upset events, and means by which lack of knowledge or certainty about the composition and state of these systems impact our ability to do risk assessment.

Nicol is co-founder of the company Network Perception whose products are widely used in the electric power industry, particularly for NERC CIP audits---NERC licenses these products and makes them available to all its auditors.  Nicol designed the algorithms that determine the connectivity a networked system allows, and to assess the risk that connectivity poses to the electrical system.  He wrote an awarded patent for risk assessment and has filed another patent on protecting the privacy of configurations under analysis.

Nicol holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Carleton College, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of Virginia.  Prior to joining the University of Illinois he held faculty positions in the Departments of Computer Science at the College of William and Mary, and Dartmouth College. He was elected Fellow of the IEEE and Fellow of the ACM for his research contributions and is the inaugural recipient of the ACM SIGSIM Distinguished Contributions Award.  He has held national (and international) technical leadership positions such as Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation, Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Security and Privacy, membership in the Sandia National Laboratories Energy and Homeland Security External Advisory Board, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratories External Advisory Board on Cyber-security.