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An NDSS Newcomer's Perspective

[Editor’s Note: A limited number of student grants are available to help pay for travel, accommodations, and NDSS Symposium registration fees for full-time students attending the 24th annual Network and Distributed System Security (NDSS) Symposium. Watch the NDSS website at for information and deadlines as the process opens for NDSS 2018 in February of next year. The following post is a guest contribution from one 2017 grantee.]

My name is Muhammad Talha Paracha, and I am an undergraduate Software Engineering student from National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan. I recently attended the Network and Distributed System Security (NDSS) Symposium 2017, on a fully funded student travel grant sponsored by Internet Society. Since it was my first international travel experience and my first conference, I enjoyed each and every bit of the trip.

There were two reasons I wanted to attend the conference: my interest in the areas of web & usable security and my goal to pursue a career in applied research. Last summer, I implemented an encryption module for Drupal ( Pubkey Encrypt) as a part of the Google Summer of Code’16 program. Thus, I saw NDSS’17 as a place to interact with experts in the field and ask them for feedback on my project. On the other hand, the research culture here in Pakistan is non-existent, especially when it comes to the areas of security. So, I also wanted to get a taste of how it feels to be a part of a research community.

Indeed, meeting scholars from all around the world was the major highlight of my week. The first day of the conference, I was a bit uncertain about my communication skills. But the next two days, I made it a mission to talk to as many people as I can, and to try to initiate meaningful conversations instead of just small talk. As a result, I discussed grad school admissions and got some specific tips based on my profile with professors from CMU, Northeastern, Michigan etc. I engaged in discussions about life in industry with researchers from Microsoft, CISCO, RSA etc. And I identified some research groups I’d really love to work with in future.

I attended all the sessions and particularly enjoyed the one on web security, probably because I understood every talk in it. Though I will admit that in many other sessions, I found it easy to get lost. But that was expected given my limited knowledge in the areas of security. I think my takeaway from the sessions was internalizing the way research at a top-tier conference is presented.

Finally, I’ll add that visiting the States has been my dream for a very long time. Fortunately, everything in my trip went smoothly. I found everyone extremely pleasant to talk to, from the researchers at the symposium to the staff at recreational sites. The weather, the beaches, everything in the city seemed lovely. Maybe I was lucky to visit San Diego which, as per the locals, is the best city in California. Or maybe it’s just the “rosy retrospection” due to the short length of my trip. In any case, US has left a perfect impression on me.

Thank you, Internet Society, for giving me the opportunity to attend NDSS’17. Without the grant, it would’ve been impossible for me to attend the event. I now aspire to come to NDSS’18 next year, not just as an attendee but as an author. And thank you Julie Rowland and Karen O’Donoghue for your liaison and assistance.

[Photo Credit: Tom Hutton]