Next Monday, I will be giving a talk at Curry On, a computer science conference in conjunction with ECOOP whose goal is to create conversation between industry and academia. I will be presenting on my work, Sieve, which is a system that provides cryptographically secure access control for user data in untrusted clouds. I am very excited about this conference because its goal is to solve an important problem in computer science: bridging the gap between industry and academia.
Ever since I started my PhD at MIT, I’ve been very excited and interested in solving problems relevant to industry. Of course, many people say that’s the point of research — it should be grounded in industry applications, but as academics, it is very easy to become lost in useless intellectual pursuit. Although I do find value in pure intellectual pursuit, I personally believe that most of the value comes from the eventual use of research in actual industry applications.
However, as an academic, it is easy to isolate yourself from the rest of the world and operate in your own insular research community. I started my PhD that way, and although it works for some people, it definitely did not work for me. It was hard for me to generate ideas, and when I had ideas, it was hard for me to justify them because I couldn’t figure a good use case for them. What really changed for me was starting a summer program for early stage security companies called Cybersecurity Factory with another fellow MIT PhD student, Jean Yang, and managing the MIT security seminar. As a result, I did not only talk to more academics but also to more executives who worked at some of the top security companies like Imprivata, Rapid7, Veracode, Akamai, etc., who are thinking about research and problems that they might face in the future to stay competitive in their vertical.
As a result, I find conferences that attempt to bring together academia and industry to be very important to ensure that as a group, we are solving relevant problems. I gave this talk originally at an academic conference (NSDI) and had some good discussions. I’m hoping at this conference, I’ll have even better conversations and hear different perspectives from industry at Curry On. I’m looking forward to giving my talk and having some good discussions that can help drive my research forward. Security will continue to be a big problem for years to come, and I think it’s important to pool the limited resources of academics and industry to fight back against the growing wave of cyberattacks. But first, it’s important for industry and academics to share knowledge and be on the same page. Ultimately, we are all on the same team!
Originally posted at https://medium.com/@ffwang2/thoughts-before-curry-on-talk-7ccd2719f378#.ulq99lazd