This page is for students and trainees who are interested in working with me on research. The goal of the page is to serve as an informative guide to learn about my interests, the style of work I do best, and what you can expect from me as an advisor. This document is mostly intended for students interested in doing a PhD in my group, but much of what I lay out here will remain true for undergraduate students and masters students as well.
I conduct research at the intersection of computer security & privacy and human-computer interaction. I am currently interested in understanding how we build sociotechnical systems to be safer for people facing a host of adversarial threats, like online harassment and mis/disinformation. That being said, I am always open to chatting about ideas about the Internet broadly (layer 3 and above) and I would be happy to discuss those with you.
I am an empiricist, which means I like to study problems through observation, inference, and test. Practically, this means that a lot of what we'll be doing in my group is building systems to measure Internet phenomena, reasoning about study design, collecting and analyzing data (ranging from surveys + interviews to Internet scale measurements), and writing up our findings in clear and compelling narratives.
There are lots of words for this style of work (Internet measurement, Data science, Social computing, Computational social science) but at its core, our group blends a deep systems expertise with a penchant for studying real-world problems involving people. If you are a theorist, I am likely not the advisor you are looking for.
I also skew significantly into choosing problems that I feel will have an impact. Impact is a weird and nebulous word, but for me, it means that someone (ideally groups of people) outside of the research team and the paper reviewers will find the work useful, engaging, and maybe even help shape how they view the world. These “someones” can vary significantly, ranging from individuals in online communities all the way to governments and policymakers.
I love engaging with passionate students who come with opinions on the work we are conducting together. To that end, I care deeply about fostering a respectful and collaborative advisor/advisee relationship and lab environment. This manifests in a few ways:
1. I skew hands on.
This means I like to get in the weeds of research. I love thinking critically about study design, developing clever ways to measure what we’re trying to study, and most importantly, learning new techniques and staying on the cutting edge of research methods. I love when you teach me new technical concepts and very much want to encourage those conversations. In our meetings, we will discuss anything from how to design a particular study, the status of code / system we’re building, results (graphs are very much encouraged to guide discussion), and framing of our papers. I will likely not be in the code
with you (though I do like to code... so don’t hold me to this). When the time comes to write up our paper, I will be very engaged and help to write the whole paper.
2. I am supportive of your goals.
People have tons of good reasons to do research or pursue higher education. My goal as an advisor is not to shoehorn you into a specific mold, but rather, to amplify your passions and aspirations and see how we can get there together.
3. I value work-life balance.
Life is too short for you to be grinding 80 hours a week all the time. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, get a meal at a restaurant, binge watch a show, take a nap, or literally anything else. I encourage students to take at least one weekend day off, or full weekends off if possible (this is much more feasible once you’re done with course requirements). To be sure, sometimes being a scientist can be tough and grinding is necessary. But with careful planning and a good amount of focus, you can be in full control over your time and your life.
In addition, your research doesn’t have to be the only “Thing you Do™”. Beyond basic life functions (like eating, sleeping, and socializing), you may also have other aspirations and passions. For example, I have a second enriching life as a playwright, composer, and lyricist (https://deepakwrites.com
) that I have managed to juggle fairly successfully with my computing research life. I will encourage and support you in pursuing whatever interests you have outside computing academia and am always happy to discuss how to strike a healthy balance.
4. I try to be available and consistent.
Faculty members can have unpredictable schedules, but in general, I like to be available to my students whenever they need me. If my office door is open, I am available to be interrupted and welcome any drop-ins. If my office door is closed, that means I’m likely not there, or if I’m there, I’m working on something and would not welcome the interruption (I probably have a deadline). I plan to be in the office during regular working hours M – F unless I’m traveling (which I will communicate to you well in advance).
5. I give regular feedback.
It’s often an enormous puzzle to understand if you’re making progress towards your graduation goals and career goals in academia. We will meet fairly regularly, with meetings at least two times a week– once for research updates, and one for lab meetings. For all of my PhD students, I schedule 1-1 quarterly “retrospective meetings” on your progress in research, in the program, and in your goals as a researcher and “life” broadly speaking. Beyond this, I will always offer feedback on request, and you’ll get a lot of my thoughts just by virtue of how I like to do research (see bullet 1).
6. I am open to feedback.
I am always eager to improve myself as an advisor, teacher, mentor, collaborator, and human being. I have an anonymous feedback form that is available to all of my PhD students that I check regularly (once ~ 2 weeks), and my door is always open to thoughts if you feel the feedback is best delivered face to face.