PhD scholarship in security usability at Cambridge

Fully funded PhD scholarship in the Pico team at the University of Cambridge

Deadline: ASAP (first come first served)

We are looking for a creative, energetic and hard-working candidate who intends to earn a PhD in security usability, working on the Pico project. Pico aims to make authentication easier by eliminating passwords.

The main goal is for Pico to be much easier and much more convenient to use than passwords, and to be immediately recognized as such by non-technical users. The improved usability must apply not only to the everyday authentication activity (logging in) but also to the less frequent management operations (recovering from lost token, adding/removing Picosiblings etc). A thorough understanding of the security constraints of authentication will be necessary, as will proficiency in human-computer interaction and scientifically-driven user studies. Awareness of the technical and economic constraints at the back-end will also be beneficial. Some programming fluency is taken for granted but a proven quick learner, willing to try their hand at new things, is preferable to someone with lots of experience. A strong candidate will stand out thanks to a creative, insightful and well-researched proposal (max 2 A4 pages) explaining what research problem the candidate will address, as well as the envisaged approach.

The Pico team, funded by the European Research Council and part of the Security Group at Cambridge, is multidisciplinary and includes researchers from various backgrounds such as security, psychology, HCI, defense and software development. We are building prototypes, running user studies and iteratively refining the design and the architecture of Pico.

The successful PhD applicant will receive an EPSRC Industrial CASE studentship partly funded by British Telecom and will be eligible for summer internships at the company. To be eligible for this studentship the doctoral student must have a relevant connection with the UK, usually established by residence and also a minimum of an upper second class honour’s degree. The successful applicant will be expected to start on 21 April 2015.

Informal enquiries about the project should be directed to the Principal Investigator Dr Frank Stajano (frank.stajano at, quoting “NOT THE CHILEAN PICO” in the subject, but enquiries about eligibility and about the application process may be made to the Graduate Education Manager (clgrdadm at

Formal applications are made via the University’s Graduate Admissions Office. Complete applications, including two academic references, research proposal, transcripts and degree certificates, should be submitted to the Graduate Admissions Office as soon as possible. The scholarship will be awarded to the first suitable applicant.

University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory:

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