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PhD fellow for Hardware/Software Co-Design for Data Analytics at the IT University

The IT University of Copenhagen invites highly motivated individuals to apply for a PhD position on the topic of Hardware/Software Co-Design for Data Analytics part of a Novo Nordisk Foundation Start Package grant starting in January 2021 or soon thereafter.

Big Data has revolutionized our lives but has also created challenges in the areas of privacy and data protection. As recent revelations showed, the datasets of our online activities can be used with ill intent harming individual’s privacy and even freedom. As a result, there is a push for stronger data protection rules and companies are investing in tools for tighter control and monitoring of personally identifiable information (PII) processed and stored in their systems. Enforcing privacy-related rules within large processing pipelines, however, is still very much an open challenge. This is because computation is often split across large number of nodes and (unintentional) data misuse and policy violations depend not only on what processing is being performed but also on the source and destination of datasets over time.

Even though there is ample related work in the context of databases on enforcing data access rules and on data lineage that allows auditing a query result by identifying which specific input tuples participated in its creation, general purpose data processing pipelines are a more complex environment: data is less structured, it resides in multiple locations, it is moved around with high bandwidth, and the computations performed on it can be significantly more complex than database queries (e.g., training a machine learning model).

The PhD student will be part of a larger project that sets out to answer the question of how can one verify, through monitoring, and enforce, through transformations, that data that moves between components of large distributed systems always comply with regulations without negatively impacting performance, while, at the same time, avoiding being overly restrictive. Our proposed solution comes from combining the state of the art in security and privacy with high bandwidth in-network and near-data processing. For this we use specialized hardware devices (FPGAs) and through these will show that it is possible to implement a framework for tracking data movement across different components of data processing pipelines and, given the allowed (and expected) behavior of application components, identify possible privacy leaks at runtime without slowing down the application that is being monitored. This effort is closely related to the topic of trusted computing and secure enclaves in the datacenter as, for security purposes, it is paramount that the framework is itself tamper-free and trustable – this will require us to explore ideas of using FPGAs and similar programmable hardware as Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) in the Cloud.

The project has strong connections and opportunities for collaborations with the members of the DASYA Lab at the IT University and several other Danish universities. In addition to this, the candidate will be able to benefit from our existing ties with renowned international research institutes. The candidate will have access to cutting edge FPGAs and platforms, such as the Xilinx Adaptive Compute Cluster (XACC).

Qualification Requirements
The following qualifications are required:

  • 3-year program: candidate should have an MSc in Computer Science, Electric Engineering, or an equivalent field
  • The PhD student must have prior experience with FPGAs, scientific computing tools (e.g., Matlab, Apache Spark, etc.) and parallel programming frameworks (etc., OpenMP, OpenCL, CUDA, etc.). Experience in security/privacy is not a requirement but a plus. Experience with projects related to Bioinformatics or Computational Biology is not a requirement but a plus.
  • The candidate will participate in conducting research on the design and implementation of security/privacy operators in specialized hardware, as well as data management-related operations on specialized hardware, with the goal of deploying them in cloud environments. In addition, the candidate will carry out comparative analysis and experimentation with state-of-the-art alternatives.
The application must be in English and must include:

  • A cover letter;
  • A statement of purpose, which provides evidence of independent thinking, novelty and originality.
  • Documentation of academic degree(s); grade transcripts that documents outstanding academic achievement;
  • Curriculum Vitae, which must include two professional/academic references;
  • Applications may also include a relevant scientific publication written by the applicant, or the applicants master thesis. Letters of recommendation can also be included in the application.
Applications without the above-mentioned required documents will not be assessed.

It is understood that even highly qualified applicants will satisfy these requirements to varying degrees, for example because of differences in publication cultures in various research fields.

Early contact with our faculty staff is strongly encouraged.

Working at the IT University
Located in modern architecture at the intersection of the new Ørestad and the old Amager, a 6-minute metro ride from the center of Copenhagen, the IT University offers an informal working environment, a varied everyday life, and a highly motivated, ambitious, competent and diverse international faculty, with PhD degrees from 15 different countries. The IT University is an equal opportunity employer and prides itself in actively and successfully pursuing an improved gender balance among students and among faculty. We encourage applicants from underrepresented groups.

Working in Copenhagen
Copenhagen has a strong educational system, a rich cultural life, universal healthcare, good childcare, and well-functioning infrastructure. Copenhagen is among the world’s most livable cities according to the Economist Global Liveability Index. Living and working in Copenhagen will be a good experience for you and your family.

General information
The IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) is a teaching and research-based tertiary institution concerned with information technology (IT) and the opportunities it offers. The IT University has more than 160 full-time Faculty members. Research and teaching in information technology span all academic activities which involve computers including computer science, information and media sciences, humanities and social sciences, business impact and the commercialization of IT.

Appointment and salary will be in accordance with the Ministry of Finance’s agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC).

Application procedure
You can only apply for this position through our e-recruitment system. Apply by pushing the button "Apply for position" in the job announcement on our website:

Please, read the guidelines for applicants carefully before filling in the application form. You can see the guidelines through this link:

Applications must be written in English. All other documents, such as transcripts must be accompanied by a translation in English or Danish.

Questions about the position can be directed to Associate Professor Zsolt Istvan, IT University of Copenhagen, e-mail

The applicant will be assessed according to the Appointment Order from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of 13 March 2012.

The IT University may use shortlisting in connection to the recruitment process. In case of shortlisting, the Chair of the hiring committee selects applicants for assessment in consultation with the hiring committee after the application deadline. All applicants are notified whether their application has been passed for assessment. The shortlisting of candidates for assessment is based on the criteria in the job posting.

Application deadline: 22 November 2020, at 23:59 CET.

Applications/enclosures received at ITU after the application deadline will not be taken into consideration. If you submit an application, it is your responsibility to ensure that it arrives before the deadline so please allow sufficient time for upload of publications and other documents.

The IT University invites all qualified researchers regardless of age, gender, religious affiliation or ethnic background to apply for the positions.

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