Getting a Ph.D. in System Security |

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2022-09-21 03:30:07

I remember when I was a master’s student, unsure about the path to take, and surrounded by questions like “Is the Ph.D. a good road?” or some months later, after my first papers rejected, “Did I choose right?”. Once, an old professor told me something like, “doing a Ph.D. is like a 3-year vacation”. Probably to some extent, or in some cases, this sentence could be plausible, but more likely, I guess this was an appealing way to convince young students to start a career in academia.

This blog post arises from here, from the lack of information about this road and wants to describe my personal experience demystifying some common legends and answering some questions that future/current Ph.D. students may have. I don’t pretend that my point of view is shared among all of you and similarly that many people read this, but my hope is to give a hint to all students uncertain about what to do with their life after their Master’s Degree or during the academic period. Thus I will go through some points that I consider quite useful and informative, and for each of them, I’ll highlight what my approach looks like. I point out that the choices I made don’t necessarily have to be considered correct, and it is very likely that the correctness depends on several other factors such as your interests, final goal, lifestyle, etc. But I opted to tell the story ``as-is’’, describing my personal point of view and collecting information just from one source: my direct experience. Finally, note that many of the aspects I will describe are related to the topic of my research, which is system security. While some points could be common with other research areas, honestly, I do not know how much overlapping there can be between security and other fields, which are very far.

When I started, one of the first things I noticed was the different backgrounds between me and the other doctoral students. Indeed I individuated three main scenarios. Some students start the 3-year academic period with a super-strong background on their topic. Others, instead, know very basic concepts related to the field of interest but have good skills that allow them to overcome the initial difficulties (e.g., super good at coding). Somewhere between these two configurations, there was me.

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