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.

Der-Tsai (aka DT) Lee
When I learned about the news that Prof. Doug Tygar passed away on January 16, I was in a total shock and could not believe it. We were communicating via email about our planned visit to the Center for Long Term Security, UCB on March 2, 2020 and Doug just sent me a confirmation on January 8 that a meeting had been arranged, Ann Cleaveland, the Executive Director of CLTC would be in touch, and he’d look forward to seeing us!

Doug and I had known each other for almost 20 years since the time when I was serving as Director of the Taiwan Information Security Center, and was seeking international collaboration with UCB in 2005. Doug was the chief architect responsible for helping make the connection between TWISC and TRUST, one of the NSF funded Science & Technology Centers at UCB, which led to a 3-year Int’l collaboration program, dubbed iCAST, for int’l Collaboration for Advancing Security Technology 2006-2009. Doug served as a mentor for the 20 graduate students selected from Taiwan to do on-site information security research at UCB every year during the collaboration period. Doug, together with a few other faculty members of TRUST, made several overseas trips across Pacific Ocean at that time and had continued to communicate with members of TWISC even after the program ended. We also had coauthored a book entitled “Computer Security in the 21st Century,” published by Springer. Doug will be remembered by all of us who were associated with TWISC, particularly those who participated in iCAST, for what he had done for them, some of whom are professors in Taiwan now, as a dedicated teacher, an innovative researcher, and most important of all, a true friend!

Doug’s passing was a tremendous loss not only to UCB but also to us all. I am sure the legacy of his relentless enthusiasm for helping young students will be carried on, as we continue the collaboration on cyber security related issues between UCB and TWISC. We will remember him forever.

On personal side, Doug is a vegetarian, but he respected others who are not. His wife, nicknamed Xiao-Niu (小牛), whom I knew independently as a professor, is a soft-spoken person with a unique mind. She got her PhD in Computer Science, but is interested in technology and art. She was invited to serve as a reviewer of projects for the National Digital Archives Program, for which I served as Program Manager. Several years after I first met Doug, Doug told me one time when I visited him at UCB that his wife was from Taiwan. Doug must have been as surprised to learn that I knew Xiao-Niu, as I was surprised to learn they were husband and wife! As I recall, I invited Doug to Taiwan for giving a short course and I invited him to a dinner party at a local vegetarian restaurant. It was dark outside, and I was waiting to meet him at the entrance of the restaurant. As usual, he came with a bag of a long strap on his shoulder, carrying a notebook computer under his arm. With his regular broad smile on his face, making graciously warm greeting remarks when Doug saw me, he accidentally stepped into a small pond near the entrance and took a fall into the water. Doug got up, with his pants and the notebook computer all wet. I felt really sorry and apologized to him. He did not complain, but instead comforted me by saying it was his fault. What a graceful person Doug was!

When I contacted Xiao-Niu expressing my deepest condolences, she was in great pain about Doug’s unexpected passing. She told me that Doug was planning to come to Taiwan this winter break, and take a sabbatical leave for six months. What a sad story! Now this sudden tragedy had made their otherwise perfect plan of getting together vanish! I could imagine the pain Xiao-Niu was bearing, and would share the same pain too! Xiao-Niu, you ought to stand strong, and you have many of us behind to support you.

Doug was a great man, and he shall remain side by side with us all forever!

February 29, 2020
Dave Eckhardt
As a CMU CS Ph.D. student in the ’90s, I was in awe of Doug. He had cool projects. He had cool Ph.D. students. As far as I could tell, he knew everything about everything, he thought Computer Science was the best fun, and he wanted everybody along for the ride. He was like Buckaroo Banzai — or maybe Buckaroo Banzai was like Doug Tygar. I’m glad to read about how he kept amazing and inspiring people after he left CMU for Berkeley. I’m sorry to hear that he has left us all too soon.
February 23, 2020
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


Last updated:

February 19, 2020