In Memory of Doug Tygar

Professor Doug Tygar passed away unexpectedly on January 16, 2020.

Doug was a valued community member, teacher, and researcher. His work made unique and significant contributions to the fields of usable computer security, cryptography, privacy, and digital rights management. As a colleague, his sharp sense of humor, infectious laugh, and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Berkeley are irreplaceable. He will be sorely missed.

We invite you to share your memories of and tributes to Doug Tygar.

Yuh-Jye Lee
It’s so sad! I knew Prof Doug Tygar since 2006 for the iCAST project. He just hosted TWISC, Taiwan Information Security Center delegation last August. He is the best mentor and friend of Taiwan cybersecurity researchers. We will remember him.
February 15, 2020
former student
I was privileged to take three courses from Doug at Cal. He was an engaging professor who clearly loved to teach and learn. It was inspiring to see someone at the top of his field still be so delighted by the comparatively small successes of his students. He was always thoughtful and interested during my personal interactions with him as well.

I'll never forget how Doug demonstrated the one-way nature of hashing algorithms by dumping his can of Diet Coke onto the carpeted floor... very easy to dump out the Coke, but very difficult to get it back into the can.

You will be missed, good sir.
February 6, 2020
Alex Kantchelian
Doug was initially my advisor at the UC Berkeley School of Information. He later became my PhD co-advisor in the Computer Science division.

Doug's course introduced me to Computer Security as a cohesive unit and inspired me to carry out research in this field. Doug had an encyclopedic knowledge and an intuitive understanding of the discipline and his brilliance was immediately recognizable, within and outside of the classroom. Adversarial Machine Learning, one of the many areas of research that he centrally pioneered, is today an extremely fertile research ground. My own contribution to this field builds on Doug’s legacy.

Doug espoused an expansive and pragmatic outlook on life and maintained a humorous attitude. As an advisor, he believed in his students' capabilities and guided them accordingly. I am grateful for the work and life that he made possible for me, and that I could not imagine when I first arrived at Berkeley. I aspire to honor his memory by emulating his generous advice and care towards my peers and interlocutors.
February 4, 2020
Allan Heydon
I am extremely saddened to learn of Doug’s death. I extend my sincere condolences to his family, friends, and to the faculty and students who knew him.

Doug was my PhD advisor at CMU in the late 1980’s. But he wasn’t my initial advisor because he joined the faculty a year or two after I started the PhD program. At the end of my second year, my initial advisor announced he was leaving CMU, and to my great good fortune Doug became my advisor. Although Doug already had a couple of grad students, I was further along in the program than they were, so I became Doug’s first PhD student to graduate.

Two things struck me immediately about Doug: his youth and his brilliance. Doug was something of a child prodigy. Although he was only a year older than me, he had graduated from Berkeley at the age of 19 or 20, and he had just successfully earned his doctorate from Harvard under the direction of Michael Rabin, a Turing award winner.

It was also clear that Doug was incredibly smart, with a vast wealth of knowledge. He was an invaluable contributor to my research and to the writing of my thesis, which included this paragraph in its acknowledgements: “First and foremost, I want to thank my advisor, Doug Tygar, for his unflagging support, encouragement, and most of all, brain power. Whenever I got stuck, I could always count on Doug to get to the root of my problem and to propose a new approach or idea to help solve it. His breadth and depth of knowledge continually amaze me. He has read each part of this thesis several times, and his comments have improved it immensely on each iteration, especially in its organization and motivation. Doug has a real gift for making persuasive arguments; I only hope that a small portion of that talent has worn off on me during our many enjoyable meetings and discussions together.” I couldn’t say it any better today.

Ours was mostly an advisor/advisee relationship. We didn’t socialize outside of school, but I did occasionally learn bits about his personal life during our meetings together. Doug had interests in literature, art, and especially music. I had the impression that his CD collection at the time was so vast it may have rivaled those of most Pittsburgh radio stations. He was also teaching himself Japanese. I remember him telling me about how on a trip to Japan he had traveled into smaller towns where people were shocked not only to encounter a non-native, but someone speaking their language so well. He was certainly a person of many interests and talents. I will forever be indebted to Doug for his guidance, his mentorship, and the positive role he played in my life.
January 31, 2020
Su-Chu Hsu Tygar (小牛)
Doug brought me a different and wonderful life. From meeting each other in 1993 at MIT and his visit to Taiwan in 1997 to our marriage in 2001, we have had many wonderful days together. We have discussed the meaning of life. We have visited countless art galleries and listened to countless concerts together. We have traveled all over the world together, and both Antarctic and Arctic have our unforgettable footprints. We have planted many flowers and cacti in our garden together. They are our good friends. We even planted mushrooms together, which added a lot of joy to our lives.

Doug loved reading, and books have always been his good friends. He was so very knowledgeable and talking with was like reading an encyclopedia. And I found that I was going to Google to search for information, but I could ask him and get the information faster. When he was going all out to pursue what he wanted to explore, he didn’t stop until he reached the highest level. I am proud of that he made some contributions to the fields of usable computer security, cryptography, privacy, and digital rights management.

He often joked: "You were born in the Chinese cow year and called Xiaoniu (a calf); I was born in the Chinese tiger year and named ‘Tygar.’ So, our souls are destined to be always connected, no matter when, in any life." We often say to each other, "Your heart is my home. Marriage is our eternal faith. " We firmly believe.

The shared memory I have with Doug is the best treasure of my life. I will be strong for him and help to complete his unfinished goals.
January 27, 2020
Stuart Russell
Doug Tygar was, as many others have noted in these pages, sui generis. His unique way of thinking enabled him to go outside the box and create new research areas out of nothing. He was also exceptionally generous with his time - always ready to engage in conversation whenever someone had a need to tap into his encyclopedic base of knowledge. (He happily devoted hours to helping my wife's company understand security issues in payment systems, for example.) He was also a fierce defender of students, particularly of those who found themselves struggling in a sometimes unfriendly and competitive environment. It was very hard to hear the news of his passing.
January 26, 2020
James Carney
Doug was my advisor and I only knew him briefly (compared to most) but I always thoroughly enjoyed our conversations, especially the ones about privacy and authoritarian governments. His reputation in the Berkeley security community was nothing short of legendary and I am deeply saddened by his passing.
January 23, 2020
Monica Chew
Doug is one of those people who make an indelible impression, even in the briefest meeting. He was my PhD advisor for 5 years, so had plenty of time to make an impression on me. His incredible ability to weave a narrative arc served him and his students well. After graduating, I ran into Doug at a conference -- he was wearing a familiar Kangol hat and used 'grep' and 'pick' to find an email that he wanted to share with me. I lost touch with him for about a decade, then suddenly he showed up at an album release party (my debut recording after becoming a full-time musician), geeky as ever. Doug could have been a music critic, a movie reviewer, a philosopher, a professor in any number of fields. Most of all he was a perpetual student in all things that made his world more interesting. I am glad to have known him.
January 23, 2020
Sadia Afroz
Doug was my mentor during my postdoc at UC Berkeley. The first time I met him as a doe-eyed grad student, too afraid to talk with anyone, I told him how his papers influenced me. He replied, “Thanks! But praising an author for his past work is like praising a duck for its tasty meat. The duck won’t be able to do it again.” That definitely wasn’t true for him as his work was way ahead of time, but his humor and humility made me feel welcomed to talk with him anytime, which had a profound impact in my life. I will miss him deeply.
January 23, 2020
Vivian Phan
Professor Tygar taught one of my favorite classes at Berkeley and was always going out of his way to make sure his students had the opportunity to learn and explore outside of class, whether it was developing our cybersecurity skills on real companies, or simply getting to talk to representatives from industry and other schools. As a mentor and advisor he was entirely supportive and always had my back whenever any problems arose.

Professor Tygar was an incredible thinker, a creative teacher, and a wonderful person. He will be greatly missed.
January 22, 2020


Last updated:

February 19, 2020