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6th Floor, Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC)
Boston, MA 02120

Biography

Talha is a Computer Science PhD student at the Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, advised by Professor David Choffnes. A native of Pakistan, Talha graduated from the National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, with a Bachelor of Software Engineering.

Talha’s research revolves around conducting large-scale internet measurements to help improve the security and privacy of online systems.

About Me

  • Hometown: Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  • Field of Study: Computer Science
  • PhD Advisor: David Choffnes

What are the specifics of your graduate education (thus far)?

In the first year of the program, I focused on finishing the coursework and reading existing literature in the areas of my interest. It has been a great learning experience, and I have started noticing how difficult it is to build secure systems. Previously, I used to think that the science is mostly done, but it is just the engineers deploying things insecurely. The presence of so many open-problems in the area has me surprised (and excited for the next years of my PhD).

What are your research interests in a bit more detail? Is your current academic/research path what you always had in mind for yourself, or has it evolved somewhat? If so, how/why?

I have yet to decide about the specific topics I would like to focus on during my graduate studies. Currently, I’m exploring different projects related to internet measurements and computer security & privacy to develop a taste for kind of problems I would like to tackle. In the past, I have worked on research problems in the areas of deep learning and computer vision. Although I’m delighted to see the recent advancements in those fields, specifically related to the tasks we thought were impossible for computers just 10 years ago, I still did not feel very excited about that kind of research and have since pivoted.

What’s one problem you’d like to solve with your research/work?

I’d love to (help) make the ubiquitous security breaches and privacy leaks a thing of the past. Even though the goal is idealistic, we have to strive towards it in order to live well in a digital future.

What aspect of what you do is most interesting/fascinating to you? What aspects of your research (findings, angles, problems you’re solving) might surprise others?

Discovering something important no one before you had stumbled upon, by following a systematic scientific approach, is the most interesting aspect I find in any PhD program.

What are your research/career goals, going forward?

My career goal is to become a researcher in industry. As such, I aspire to publish at top-conferences and do summer internships at companies like Google etc. during the course of my program.

Where did you grow up/spend the most defining years of your childhood/young adulthood?

My family hails from the village of Darya Khan where I was also born and spent my early childhood. But in search for better opportunities, they migrated to the historic city of Rawalpindi. As such, two distinct yet equally fascinating lifestyles had an enormous impact in shaping my personality.

Where did you study for your undergraduate degree? Any reason in particular behind your choice (a program you were excited about, a city you love, a researcher you wanted to work with)?

I studied at NUST Islamabad, which I would call as the best public institution in my country, based on the time I spent there (and my consequent biases). Its proximity to my home, prestige, and reputation in the areas of Computer Science were the reasons behind my choice to go there.
NUST has helped me improve a lot, at both professional and personal levels. I would love to be able to contribute back to the community there at some point in my life.