Challey Spotlight: Zia Muhammad

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Zia Muhammad.

Challey Spotlight: Zia Muhammad

Graduate student, Computer Science

Zia Muhammad is a first-year Ph.D. student studying computer science at NDSU. He grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he completed his master’s degree in information security at the National University of Science and Technology and taught cybersecurity at Air University. He previously worked as a researcher at the National Cyber Security Auditing and Evaluation Lab in Pakistan. In August 2022, he came to the United States to pursue his doctoral studies at NDSU. As a Mancur Olson Graduate Fellow, he will engage with the ideas of the Challey Institute and participate in a graduate student reading group on “An Introduction to Public Choice.”

What inspired you to go to graduate school, and why did you choose NDSU?

It was my dream to do a Ph.D. and dedicate all my time and efforts to global research and innovation, specifically in computer science. During my master’s, I decided to study at an international institution to gain exposure and cultural diversity. So, I started looking for Ph.D. institutions that are globally recognized, and that is how I found North Dakota State University. It is a top research institution in computer science. People from all around the world come here to study, and there are a lot of career opportunities for students as research and teaching assistants. 

Your advisor is Challey Scholar Dr. Zahid Anwar. What research topics are the two of you currently working on?

I have been working with Dr. Zahid. It has been a great working experience, and he is really an expert adviser. When we talk about cybersecurity, he is an IT geek who is dedicated and a field expert. There is always something to learn in every meeting. He is the best mentor because he takes you step-by-step and guides you through the research process. We just started to explore different domains. Currently, we are working on the security challenges facing autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles. We are also exploring mobile security and the impact of various public policies on society.

What does the Mancur Olson Graduate Fellowship mean to you? How will it help you pursue your career goals?

First of all, I am very happy to receive this fellowship, and I would like to thank the Challey Institute for making this effort. It means a lot. My main focus as a teacher was to work for the betterment of society. So, after pursuing my Ph.D., I want to serve my community, teach, produce valuable research, and work for the betterment of global institutions. I would love to help meet the goals of the Challey Institute and make this world a better place.  

The Challey Institute hosts many prominent speakers. You recently had an opportunity to meet with Sam Peltzman, a distinguished economist from the University of Chicago. What did you learn from Dr. Peltzman? How did his visit enhance your NDSU experience?  

This initiative [Distinguished Speaker Series] is so good for students and the institution. It was a great opportunity to meet Sam Peltzman, a renowned researcher and a great person. He has worked on smart transportation—so after I learned that, I was very interested to talk to him. His ideas provided a multi-dimensional perspective that will be helpful in my research. It was really fun, and these initiatives encourage and motivate students.

How does funding like the Mancur Olson Graduate Fellowship support you in pursuing your dream at NDSU? 

The fellowship provides financial support, learning opportunities, and networking possibilities. We all know that living in the U.S. is expensive. As an international student, you face multiple financial issues, especially in your first year. You have to pay for things like accommodations, utilities, and insurance. That’s why these initiatives really help students. These kinds of partnerships give you an initial boost so you can be on track, focused, and motivated to do great work. 

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade, institutions, and human potential to identify policies and solutions for the betterment of society. Learn more at
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