PhD position: Securing Machine Learning Systems against Adversarial Attacks

Deadline: 01.07.2022

Simula Research Laboratory AS

Simula is a publicly owned research laboratory that conducts research in Information and Communication Technology. Our research is focused in the fields of scientific computing, software engineering, communication systems, machine learning and cybersecurity.

Simula's main objective is to solve fundamental problems of science and engineering that are of genuine value for society. This is achieved through high-quality research, education of graduate students, industry collaboration, and commercialization. Since 2001, scientific evaluations conducted by the Research Council of Norway has repeatedly placed Simula at the forefront of international research in ICT. In the most recent in-depth evaluation, the full range of research at Simula as given the grade of “excellent”.

Simula currently employs approximately 190 individuals from 35 countries and strives to create inclusive working environments. We strive to be an inclusive workplace.

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Project scope & description

Machine learning has become the backbone of various applications impacting multiple areas of human life, including healthcare, transportation, education, security, finance, etc. The key requirement of trustworthy machine learning are security and robustness, which refer to the ability of machine learning systems to behave as intended in unexpected situations and environments, for example when exposed to the operating environment or other agents that may interact with the system in an adversarial manner. However, ML (specifically, neural networks) are easily prone to adversarial attacks. Adversarial attacks leverage data perturbations, i.e. small changes in input data that cause large changes in the output, in order to fool the target ML model.

The main objective of this PhD project is to develop theoretical methods and practical tools for effectively detecting and countering adversarial attacks against machine learning systems, with the end goal of improving the security of ML systems, i.e. preventing them to be manipulated by an adversary.

Candidate profile

Applicants are expected to have a Master’s degree in computer science or software engineering. The following items form a wish list for skills and experiences of an ideal candidate:

  • Masters degree in Software Engineering, Machine Learning or Data Science.
  • Good academic performance in Masters and undergraduate coursework.
  • A solid background in data science and machine learning. Direct research experiences in these areas is beneficial.
  • Solid programming skills (e.g., Python), experience with machine learning frameworks, such as Keras, or TensorFlow, or others.
  • Strong quantitative and analytical skills are an advantage.
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English, good interpersonal and communication skills and show willingness to work as part of an international team.

Curriculum and PhD training

The PhD fellow will be enrolled in the doctoral program at one of our partnering degree-conferring universities, such as the University of Oslo or Oslo Metropolitan University.

As a PhD fellow at Simula you will work closely with your primary supervisors in Oslo, and undertake coursework and training related to computer science, software engineering and machine learning. The specific courses to be included in the curriculum will be decided based on the background and interests of the candidate. In order to ensure successful completion of the project, student progress will be closely monitored by the supervisor(s) and through regular meetings with Simula’s PhD coordinator.

In addition, the candidate will be enrolled in Simula’s training programs for early career researchers, which including both research-specific skills (e.g., grant writing, supervision) and transferrable skills (e.g., public speaking, project management), the combination of which opens a broad array of future career paths, academic as well as non-academic.

Simula offers:

  • Excellent opportunities for performing high quality research, as part of a highly competent and motivated team of international researchers and engineers.
  • An informal and inclusive international working environment.
  • Generous support for travel and opportunities to build international networks, through conferences, established collaboration with industry, and exchange programs and research visits with other universities.
  • Modern office facilities located in downtown Oslo, Norway.
  • A competitive salary. Starting salary from NOK 491.200
  • Numerous benefits: access to company cabins, sponsored social events, generous equipment budgets (e.g., computer, phone and subscription), subsidized canteen meals, comprehensive travel/health insurance policy, etc.
  • Relocation assistance: assistance with visas, complimentary Norwegian language courses, temporary accommodation, etc.
  • Administrative research support: e.g., quality assurance process for grant proposals (including RCN and EU programs).
  • Professional development and researcher training opportunities through the Simula Academy.
  • Flexibility in working conditions: our employees’ health and well-being is a priority and we encourage them to make use of our flexible work arrangements to help balance their work and home lives efficiently.

Application requirements:

The application must include:

  1. A cover letter summarising the candidate’s background and motivation, relevant experience and qualifications, and listing in ranked order the project(s) to which the candidate wishes to apply.
  1. Curriculum vitae: educational background, any prior research experience and specific research project involvement, working experience (in particular, any relevant academic or industrial work), list of publications (e.g., scientific papers and publication of conference contributions)
  1. Copies of transcripts and diplomas from Bachelor and Master’s degrees. If you have not yet have your Master’s diploma, please submit your transcripts for your graduate courses so far.
  1. Letters of reference, and contact information (name, current position, relation to the candidate, phone and email) for up to three academic and research-oriented referees.

All of the above should be submitted via the provided form below – applications submitted by email will not be considered.

Note: For non-native English speakers, proof of competency with English is generally required for entrance to the doctoral program. Standardized test results or completion of a University degree in an English-speaking country is suitable.

Application deadline:

We are accepting applications until 1 July, 2022.

However, applications will be evaluated on a continuous basis until the position has been filled.

Working at Simula:

Interested candidates are encouraged to read more about the working environment and training opportunities at Simula. Here are some useful links

Main supervisor and contact:

Simula Research Laboratory uses Semac´s background check in our recruitment process.

According to the Norwegian Freedom and Information Act (Offentleglova) information about the applicant may be included in the public applicant list, also in cases where the applicant has requested non-disclosure.

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