Three thesis awards to the Department of Computer Science

Ilya Nikolaevskiy, Rakshith Shetty and Klaudia Krawiecka were awarded at the Annual Symposium of Computer Science 4.6.2018 in Turku.

Ilya Nikolaevskiy’s doctoral thesis "Scalability and Resiliency of Static Routing" won the award for the best Finnish PhD thesis in computer science in 2017 granted by the Research Foundation for Computer Science. The dissertation presents a deep assessment and investigation of the class of static routing algorithms for the two most crucial performance characteristics namely scalability and resiliency. Ilya received also the dissertation award from the School of Science at Aalto University earlier this year.

Finnish Society for Computer Science awarded Rakshith Shetty's Master's thesis “Natural Language Description of Images and Videos” the best Master’s thesis award for the year 2016-2017. In his thesis Rakshith developed methods enabling computers to provide captions for images and videos. These new methods won two international video captioning competitions.

Klaudia Krawiecka’s Master’s thesis “Improving Web Security Using Trusted Hardware” was awarded an Honorable mention by the Finnish Society for Computer Science. Her thesis introduced a new technique that uses widely available trusted hardware for protecting user’s passwords and other sensitive data on the web. She received also the 2017 national information security Master’s thesis of the year award last year.

Below you can find short interviews of the awardees discussing both their experiences in academia as well as their current work.

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Ilya Nikolaevskiy: Doctoral thesis "Scalability and Resiliency of Static Routing"

Ilya Nikolaevskiy’s dissertation concentrates on the investigation of scalability and resiliency of static routing and correspondent implications of its optimization. Within some feasible time the developments presented in the dissertation will appear in real networks. Ilya says he likes to construct algorithms and solve problems which were also the main focus of his thesis. In his own words: “I had quite some fun working on the thesis!”

Currently Ilya is a software engineer at Google in Sweden, where he works on an open source framework for audio and video calls called WebRTC. “It’s used widely in many products you may be using: Chrome, Whatsapp, Facebook, Hangouts”, Ilya explains. An important part of his work is debugging programs. Thinking of the most useful skill obtained in academia Ilya says it is the research process in general: visualizing data, making hypotheses and testing them. “A debugging process is very similar to a research process, so my research skills helped me a lot of times to find and squash some very difficult bugs.”

When asked about tips for students considering doctoral studies Ilya mentions persistence: “Sometimes, when you just can't publish some paper - don't give up. Usually, it's not that your paper is bad, it's that other submissions were slightly better.” He also has an advice for the situation when the thesis work consists of different projects: “Think in advance: maybe you can broaden or change the scope of your upcoming paper to tie it closely with other work you have done already or may be doing in the future.”

For the support during his doctoral studies Ilya wants to thank the people who enabled him to complete his doctoral thesis: his supervisor, Professor Antti Ylä-Jääski, and thesis advisors Professor Andrei Gurtov and PhD Andrey Lukyanenko.

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Rakshith Shetty: Master’s thesis “Natural Language Description of Images and Videos”

Rakshith considers the broader research topic of image/video captioning interesting, since it allows computer models to translate their understanding of images/videos into natural human-like language. “It is surprising how well these computer models perform on this task, which makes them look much smarter than they actually are”, he describes. What Rakshith found out when going “under the hoods” of these models was that how well-designed simple components can make the whole model look intelligent.

An important skill Rakshith learned while doing his thesis was not to rely on his memory. “I have learnt to keep my experiments and results organized from the very beginning of a project. You can do this with very little effort by using good naming conventions and structuring your code, and it will save you a lot of time and stress when starting to write about these results months later.”

After graduating Rakshith has started his doctoral studies in the computer vision group at Max-Planck-Institute for Informatics (MPI). “I was familiar with the computer vision group through a movie description competition they had organized, which we (me and my supervisor Lecturer Jorma Laaksonen) participated and won. I knew it was a good group and I wanted to pursue my doctorate in it.” For Rakshith it was a long-term plan to continue with doctoral studies. ”I had worked in industry for 3 years in a technical position before starting Master’s studies at Aalto. Although it was a good experience, it made me realize that I would prefer a career in academia.”

Currently he is working on training computer models to automatically edit images without the need for human interaction. “The model should be able to remove or add objects from images or change the color of an object so that the image would still look natural and realistic after the changes”, he explains. With this tool it would be possible for example to automatically remove the background people from holiday pics before posting them online.

In five years time Rakshith would like to be working as an academic researcher sitting in front of his computer and attempting to solve interesting problems. “I really enjoyed my time in Finland and I still have very strong ties to Finland. I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Jorma Laaksonen for all his support and help with my thesis. Studying in Aalto and living in Otaniemi was an experience I will always cherish.”

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Klaudia Krawiecka: Master’s thesis “Improving Web Security Using Trusted Hardware”

Klaudia enjoyed working on her Master’s thesis project from the beginning until end: “It was very interesting to try to find a solution to such a demanding challenge as securing users’ credentials on the web using new technologies. I would like to thank Professor N. Asokan and Dr Andrew Paverd for all their support and guidance.” Taking an additional course while working gave her useful experience on how to be more efficient. “A systematic approach, as well as a good communication with other group members, helped me to achieve this goal."

Currently Klaudia is doing her doctoral studies in Oxford where she is working on exploring the possibilities of obtaining stronger security guarantees by using Augmented Reality kit. “I did not plan to pursue a doctoral degree until I started working in Secure Systems Group. I was inspired and encouraged by my supervisors and other group members. Conducting research, discussing new ideas and trying to implement them was such an exciting experience!” Klaudia ended up in Oxford because she is interested in various aspects of Cyber Security such as human and legal issues. The Center for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at the University of Oxford offered this kind of a multidisciplinary program.

For potential doctoral students Klaudia tells how she made her decision: “When I was deciding whether to apply for a Ph.D. position or not, I tried to imagine myself in a few years working on my own research project. I felt extremely excited about the idea of “sailing in uncharted waters” since I have always liked being challenged. This simple trick helped me to make my decision, perhaps it can help also somebody else.” Regarding her future plans Klaudia says: ”I am considering to pursue my academic career, however, I am still open to new opportunities that may arise in the next few years.”

 

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Congratulations to Ilya, Rakshith and Klaudia!

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