Advice for prospective students or interns
Q: What are your research interests?
A: I'm interested in software security, systems security, computer systems, compiler-based sanitization, fuzzing, and binary translation/binary analysis. If you want to get an overview of my research interests, I encourage you to read some of our recent papers. Make sure that our research interests overlap.
Q: What are you looking for in a graduate student?
A: My research interests are in the area of software security and systems security, therefore any student is expected to have solid programming skills in low-level languages like C/C++, detailed knowledge of operating systems as well as compilers, and an intrinsic hacker approach to approaching challenges and problem solving.
Q: How should I apply for graduate studies?
A: Graduate students must apply at the EPFL graduate school and I encourage you to follow the guidelines on the EPFL EDIC page. Graduate applications are handled centrally and all applicants are evaluated by the IC graduate admission committee. The committee will carefully evaluate your transcripts, your mission statement, and your CV. You can mark specific faculty with whom you are interested to work with. After the committee has evaluated applications, all faculty can look at the applicant pool and reach out to the students they are interested in. Your best strategy is to communicate with me about fit and your research interests when you are preparing the application. There is nothing I can do before you have applied formally.
You may also send me a short description of your research interests, your current CV, and any other information you'd like me to know when you're preparing the application. When sending an email make sure that your interests align with the interests in the HexHive research group. You are strongly encouraged to relate your interests to existing research projects. For example, include a paragraph about the HexHive research project that was most interesting to you. Include a short summary about that project and why you think it was interesting.
Q: What are you looking for in an intern?
A: We are looking for curious interns to join us in the HexHive every summer. Most of our interns are 3rd or 4th year bachelor students or 1st year master students. The ideal candidate has a decent systems programming background (C, C++) and has taken a compiler and security class. Experience to large software systems such as LLVM and Chromium are definitively a plus but not required. Having taken security and architecture classes are a plus but not strictly a requirement. We value curiosity and interest in learning and research, so convince us that you want to be part of a dynamic team.
EPFL has an amazing program called Summer@EPFL where all intern applications are handled in a central place. Apply there, select security and/or systems as your interest areas, list why you want to join the HexHive in your motivation statement, and list Mathias as your potential adviser. As applications are handled in a central place, we cannot handle individual applications on a per-group basis. To do an internship with us, you must apply through this program.
Q: I'm interested in a doing a research project at HexHive, what should
A: Great, thanks for your interest. Feel free to get in contact with me after looking at my research interests. If you are an EPFL student, check the list of open student projects. If you are an outside student, follow the guidelines on EPFL graduate application above.
Q: What are the differences between a PhD in the US and in Europe at EPFL?
A: Glad you asked. Picking your PhD location is an important decision that depends on many factors. Deciding on doing a PhD is a huge, long term commitment, not just regarding where you'll spend the next 5 years of your life but also on what you'll work long term. The adviser-advise relationship lasts forever. So picking an adviser with whom you can work with is key. Secondary factors include university ranking (this will position you for future jobs), environment, and location. The environment in Europe varies a bit and is often different from the US. EPFL is very similar to US universities but some differences remain. I've written a blog post about differences between the US and EPFL to clarify the most common questions in detail.
Q: I'm pumped. What should I do to make sure my email is read?
A: Awesome. Consider that faculty receives several cold contact emails per day and we cannot answer all of them. Most emails consist of a standard text that is copy pasted to all faculty at a school, maybe with their research area copy-pasted into the letter. Don't do this. If you want an answer, write a custom email. Explain why you like the research of a particular professor and how you fit exactly into their research group. Be specific and include details! Note that if you use mail tracking images, I will consider your email SPAM and delete your email without reading it.