Xu named OEA for Computer Science and Engineering


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Wilson Xu (M.S. '99) executive vice president of engineering at Palo Alto Networks has been named an Outstanding Engineering Alumna by Penn State’s College of Engineering.

Established in 1966, the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by the college and recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement. Xu will receive his award, along with 11 other recipients, at a ceremony on April 14 at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus.

For Xu, studying computer science was an easy decision. He recalls, “In the 1990s, it was one of the most cutting-edge engineering programs. I wanted to become an expert in the field.”

After earning his undergraduate degree in computer science from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, Xu enrolled at Penn State to earn a graduate degree.

Originally, he hoped to one day pursue a career in academia. However, an internship at Cadence Design Systems in San Jose, CA, made him think differently. “I flew to Silicon Valley, where a lot of computer networking companies were booming. There, I realized what I would like most is to innovate the industry.”

Xu completed his master’s degree in 1999 and spent the first five years of his career as a software engineer at Network Associates and NetScreen Technologies.

In early 2004, NetScreen was acquired by Juniper Networks, a multinational corporation headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, that develops and markets networking products.

Xu was soon named engineering manager, a position he held for two years. While he appreciated the opportunity to manage other engineers at Juniper, Wilson also missed the hands-on engineering work.

He transitioned back into an engineer role in 2006 when he joined Palo Alto Networks, a network and enterprise security startup in Silicon Valley that was cofounded by engineers from NetScreen.

At Palo Alto Networks, Xu has held various manager and director roles, and was named head of engineering in 2014. Today, he oversees 400 engineers who are developing multiple product lines, from network security to a threat intelligence cloud.

“Practically all of society depends on a connected infrastructure. Our cars—and even our homes—are connected. Network security is critical to this infrastructure and to our everyday lives,” says Xu.

He adds that the network security industry has been mostly segmented, with many companies specializing in solving one problem. “What is unique about Palo Alto Networks is that we recognized this trend early on, and we offer an innovative and effective security platform that works seamlessly.”

Xu resides in Hillsborough, CA, with his wife, Rita (’99 Ph.D. CSE), and their daughters, Marie-Anne and Audrey.


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Stefanie Tomlinson



Wilson Xu

“I flew to Silicon Valley, where a lot of computer networking companies were booming. There, I realized what I would like most is to innovate the industry.”


The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was created in the spring of 2015 to allow greater access to courses offered by both departments for undergraduate and graduate students in exciting collaborative research in fields.

We offer B.S. degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and data science and graduate degrees (master's degrees and Ph.D.'s) in electrical engineering and computer science and engineering. EECS focuses on the convergence of technologies and disciplines to meet today’s industrial demands.

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