Alejandro Cuevas 

I worked as a researcher at the Distributed and Decentralized Systems (DeDiS) lab at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) under the direction of Dr. Bryan Ford. The experience took place between June 15 and August 15, 2017. I had the freedom to choose among the many research projects that were currently under development. I chose to work on a project about computer security practices of humanitarian workers, on one hand, and on the implementation of a cryptographic library as well.

Personally, this experience was an opportunity for me to assess whether a graduate education was worth pursuing and to discover whether I enjoyed research or not. This opportunity gave me firsthand experience and was immensely influential in my current planning. Regarding my impact as a researcher, I’m excited to say that one of the projects I collaborated on is going to be submitted to a top-tier security conference and I’m a co-author of the paper. Not only did I carry out a lot of the experiments, but I also wrote several sections of the paper to be published.

“IST504: Foundations of Theories and Methods of Information Sciences and Technology Research” was a course that immediately came in handy from day one. IST504 was the first graduate course that I took. In this class, we had to write thorough weekly summaries of 2-4 scientific papers we read during the week. The ability to rapidly synthesize papers and to write at a journal level were crucial. Furthermore, my exposure to research in the college of IST was also a vital component in my ability to work at EPFL and to perform at the expected level.

I learned a plethora of things in two areas: technical and personal. On a technical level, I learned how to write a scientific paper, how the publication process works, I learned the Go programming language, I learned about elliptic curve cryptography, and the list goes on. On a personal level, I learned about the pros and cons of academia versus industry and what the life of a PhD student looks like. On one hand, the technical aspects opened me to new areas of computer science that were unknown to me. They also make me now a more competitive and attractive candidate for both industry and academia. On the personal side, this opportunity gave me yet more to think about what exactly my path will look after graduation. While it raised some important questions, it has solidified my decision continuing my pursuit for more advanced learning.

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