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Life after PhD?  

2011-02-26 12:12:38|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The ISG has over 70 PhD research students, working on a wide variety of

information security research topics. A PhD degree often appears to be a long

lonely road. So why are they doing it? And what are the benefits? We spoke to

Caroline Belrose, who completed her PhD in 2006, about life before, and after, a

PhD.

Why did you choose to do a PhD?

Good question! I'm not someone who always wanted to do a PhD, but I was

always interested in Cryptography, and after my MSc Information Security I

worked for six months with HP Labs in Bristol. I ended up publishing a research

paper with one of my HP colleagues and I got a real kick from that. So I started

to consider the idea of doing a PhD. My main problem was funding, so when

HP generously agreed to sponsor my PhD, I decided to go ahead with it.

Why did you choose to study with the ISG?

It is the largest and most well-known UK academic group working on information

security. I think that's a good thing for students because it means that there is a

wealth of experience to draw on and learn from. There is also more variety in the

kind of research going on, which is inspirational and gives students more

options.

Dare we ask what your PhD was about?

To provide a short answer I’ll discuss my thesis, but a PhD is about far more than

the thesis! The first part was about special kinds of signature schemes which

involve multiple parties and where you can't determine who from a group of

people actually produced the signature. The second part was about key

agreement protocols, an area which seems pretty simple, but isn't. In both parts

of the thesis I examined how to formulate good security models for the primitives

I was working with, and also looked at how to prove that a given signature

scheme or protocol was secure within these security models.

What are you doing now?

After completing my PhD I was offered a job with Vodafone in their R&D security

team, and I took it because it offered a good balance between research and

industry. I have a lot of variety in my role and a lot of interaction with all sorts of

people both inside and outside of Vodafone, which I like. I am involved in

managing the security requirements for the phones Vodafone purchases and sells

on to customers, security work in industry fora and standards bodies,

investigating new mobile security technologies for phones in the future, and a lot

of other small things that crop up that require security expertise.

You could have pursued an academic career, why have you joined

industry?

I realised during my PhD that I wouldn't be happy in academia. I enjoy working

on problems and coming up with solutions, but everyday academic work is

seldom about that. It’s also about lecturing, marking and reviewing, none of

which particularly appealed to me. Academia offers you a great deal of freedom

in what you study, but a lot of academic research can be very far removed from

current reality, and this became even clearer to me through my regular contact

with HP. I wanted to work on things that people other than cryptographers felt

was important and that mattered now (patience is not something I'm known for).

So although the world of industry did look a little scary from the safety of

academia, I felt that I needed a change and a new challenge.

Are there any skills that you acquired during your PhD that are useful in

your current role?

I learnt to question things and keep an open mind to new ideas. I learnt to

reason about problems in order to develop logical solutions, and then to present

my findings. And very importantly, I also learnt to trust my own abilities. I

discovered that if you just sit down and give yourself the time to think things

through properly, you can often come up with some surprising results. The thing

is, most of us don't usually bother to try, or don't have the time, so we never

really explore what we're capable of doing. A PhD gives you a unique opportunity

to learn these skills, and they'll be useful wherever you go.

Any advice for anyone contemplating starting a PhD?

Firstly, I would say be honest with yourself about why you want to do it. If you

like the sound of the title "Doctor", or you want to impress your friends, or you

just don't know what to do next, then I would recommending finding something

else. A PhD takes a lot of self motivation, and if your heart's not in it, you may

not make it, and even if you do, you probably won't enjoy it. If you want to make

loads of money, a PhD is unlikely to put you ahead either, because experience

usually counts for more than academic qualifications. If however you have a

genuine interest in your chosen topic, you enjoy the freedom of being able to

explore your own ideas, and you think you may want to go into academia or just

experience what research is like for a few years, then go for it. I think a lot of

people worry about not knowing exactly what they want to actually study, or that

they don't know if they'll be able to come up with original new ideas. But these

are things that you work out as you go along with the help of you supervisor and

fellow students. To me, this is part of the PhD experience.

I would also recommend speaking to someone who has completed a PhD to

clarify any questions you may have. It's a three-year commitment, so be as

informed as possible beforehand.

Is there life after a PhD?

There seems to plenty of PhD graduates about who don't require Prozac to make

it through the day, so there must be life after a PhD! I miss the "flexitime" of PhD

life, but it's great to finally have that thesis done and dusted and not to have

to think about it again (until someone starts asking you questions about it)!

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