Welcome, Professor Shweta Shinde!

We are very happy to welcome Shweta Shinde in the Department of Computer Science at ETH Zurich in October 2020 as Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Computer Science. Get to know her in this short interview.

Professor Shinde, welcome to ETH Zurich! What are your current research interests?
I work broadly in computer security and privacy. My research is at the intersection of trusted computing, system security, program analysis and formal verification. Specifically, my goal is to lay down the foundations for building large-scale secure systems with long-term impact. A lot of my work furthers this goal by showcasing the practical feasibility of securing existing and emerging software systems.

What is the impact of your research on society?
One of the challenges in security is the ever-growing size and complexity of software systems that are rife with vulnerabilities. Patches and defences are continuously deployed, but the software attack surface is extremely large, and attackers invariably find ways to gain a persistent foothold. Such attacks not only cost billions of dollars in losses but are also life-threatening. Hence it is crucial to find effective ways to end the arms race between potential attacks and corresponding defence tools.

Several deployed as well as upcoming systems such as cloud computing, machine-learning infrastructure, databases, computer networks, and embedded devices such as Internet of Things stand to benefit from fundamental ways of building secure systems from the ground up. We have started seeing wide adoption of secure techniques (e.g. trusted computing, formal verification) in cloud-based confidential computing as well as privacy-preserving analytics. I look forward to continued technology transfer from the prototypes we build in our research lab to fully deployed solutions in real-world use cases.

Where were you working before you came to ETH Zurich?
Before joining ETH Zurich, I was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley for one and a half years. Before that, I was a PhD student at the National University of Singapore where I was supported by the President’s Graduate Fellowship.

Which courses will you be teaching at ETH?
This autumn, I am co-teaching a Master’s course on Information Security. Going forward, I plan to teach courses such as “Topics in Computer Security” and “Seminar on Trusted Computing”. These courses will first cover the security fundamentals such as cryptography and privacy, then dive into their intersection with areas such as programming languages, systems and formal methods. This will help give students an in-depth understanding of both the theoretical and applied aspects of security.

What are your first impressions of Switzerland and ETH Zurich?
I visited Switzerland a few years ago and I have fond memories of my trip. The scenic beauty, majestic Alps, and the general efficiency certainly left a great impression. Everyone at ETH has been amazing and exceptionally supportive, especially under the unprecedented circumstances of 2020. They have left no stone unturned in making me feel welcome and at home in a new country.

What advice would you give to students who are just starting out in computer science?
Computer science has become so vast that it is impossible to have an in-depth understanding of everything. It can be quite intimidating in the beginning, especially when deciding where to start. My advice is to focus on the fundamentals and gain a solid understanding while you are in the formative years. Once students have enough breadth in their basics, they are more confident and well-informed when it comes to exploring a specific area of interest in depth. Lastly, continued curiosity and knowing how to learn new things on the fly are the most valuable tools that you should hone.