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Faculty Mentor: Sameer Patil
Title: Associate Professor
College: Engineering
School / Department: School of Computing

Project description

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

With the pervasiveness of technology in every facet of life, cybersecurity has emerged as one of the most important societal challenges of recent times. Yet, people find it difficult to manage security and privacy when interacting with technology, creating potential risks for their online safety and well-being. To address this issue, this research will focus on understanding people’s preferences and practices pertaining to cybersecurity-related matters and designing user experiences (UX) that help users manage their security and privacy in a more informed way.

To this end, the research project will involve investigating a topic at the intersection of cybersecurity and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The specific research question addressed by the project can be chosen from a diversity of topics that hold real-world practical relevance to our daily lives, including but not limited to: social media, phishing, online misinformation (aka "fake news"), smartphone apps, smart home devices, smart cities, algorithmic transparency, ethical and explainable Artificial Intelligence (AI), ransomware, authentication and passwords, public policy and regulatory compliance, cybersecurity education, etc. The student will choose and shape a research project that appeals to the student within this broad space.

Student Role: The project will deal with privacy and security aspects of technology from the human (user) perspective. The student will have the opportunity to take a leadership role and be creative about shaping the specifics of the chosen project. The work involves: collecting and understanding existing research on the topic, designing and conducting a study about people's use of technologies, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data collected in the user study and/or obtained from online sources, developing prototypes or proofs of concept to demonstrate of novel UX designs, etc. To that end, the student can choose to be involved in any or all of aspects of the work, including but not limited to: literature review, study design, data collection, data cleanup, data analysis, writing scripts and programs, developing prototypes of user interfaces and user experiences, writing papers, etc. Creativity, desire to learn new things, and willingness to accept challenges are essential. No prior technical knowledge or skills is required. However, carrying out many of the project-related activities may require the use of technology such as: Qualtrics (for surveys), R/Python/Javascript/CSS (for data collection and processing), Java (for building apps), Overleaf/LaTeX (for writing papers), Github/Google Drive (for file storage and version control), Illustrator/InDesign (for making posters), Kaltura/Premier (for making videos), BibTeX (for collecting references), Slack/Signal/Zoom (for communication), Trello (for project management), MaxQDA (for qualitative data analysis), etc. The student is expected to be willing to learn (with guidance) the technological tools that may be required for the research project.
Student Benefits: The main learning outcome are: (i) developing the ability to formulate a useful research question on a topic; (ii) making methodological choices suited to addressing the question; (iii) conducting quantitative and/or qualitative data analysis; and (iv) communicating the results and implications of the findings of the analysis in a professional manner. In addition, the student will undergo the required CITI training for conducting human-subjects research in an ethical manner. The target product of the learning experience is a research paper submitted to a high-impact conference or journal in the fields of cybersecurity or Human-Computer Interaction. In addition, there may be other deliverables connected to the paper, such as a poster, a video presentation, a prototype app and its source code, etc. Any software code and/or data produced as part of the research will be shared openly and can serve as tangible demonstration of skills developed during the experience. Apart from contributing novel and original knowledge to these research fields, the project experience will provide the student with practical hands-on knowledge about cybersecurity and the important professional skills of collaboration and communication. The experience can serve as a foundation for a career in the technology industry in general and cybersecurity industry in particular. In addition, the experience can be useful for a career in government, defense, or non-profit sectors, especially on matters of cybersecurity-related public policy. Alternatively, the experience can be a steppingstone for graduate or professional education (Master’s or Ph.D.).
Project Duration: 35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022
Opportunity Type: This is a paid research position
Is this a paid opportunity: Yes
Minimum Requirements: Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).