Funded Scholarships: Research Degrees

If you are interested in any of the below scholarships, please apply via our normal Programme links (Full time or Part Time) but ensure that you very clearly indicate on your cover letter or personal statement that you would like to be considered for a particular scholarship.


PhD Studentship: Automated black-box verification of networking systems

Our society is increasingly reliant on complex networking systems, consisting of several components that operate in a distributed/concurrent fashion, exchange data that may be highly sensitive, and are implemented with a mix of open and closed-source code. Examples are Software Defined Networks, cloud computing systems, Internet of Things and others. 

As the complexity of these systems increases, there is a pressing need of methods and tools to automatically verify security and privacy properties. High quality models – able to express all the behaviours of interest – are of paramount importance to this aim. However, it is often the case that the task of building a model is performed by humans and in a short span of time – if it is performed at all – and as such can be error-prone and inaccurate. 

The goal of the proposed PhD project is to develop techniques and tools to automate the modelling and verification of networking software systems. The novel idea is to rely on the model learning paradigm, originally proposed in artificial intelligence, to automatically build an automaton model of a running system in a black-box fashion -- purely via interactions with the running system.  

The PhD project is funded by the UK Research Institute in Verified Trustworthy Software Systems (VeTSS), and will be supervised by Prof. Alexandra Silva and Dr. Matteo Sammartino. The start date can be negotiated and should be September 2018 at the latest.

Potential applications are encouraged to contact Prof. Silva ( or Dr. Sammartino ( for expressions of interest or further information.


PhD Studentship: EPSRC project - Automated Software Specialisation Using Genetic Improvement

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available under the supervision of Dr. Justyna Petke ( The student will be required to undertake research in software engineering that is relevant to Dr. Petke's fellowship on automated software specialisation.

The project will utilise and develop novel methods in the field of software engineering, called genetic improvement. GI is a novel field of research that only arose as a standalone area in the last few years. Several factors contributed to the development and success of this field, one of which is the sheer amount of code available online and focus on automated improvement of non-functional properties of software, such as energy or memory consumption. Work on automated software transplantation using GI had already gathered multiple academic awards and media attention with coverage in BBC Click and the Wired magazine, among others.

The goal of the project is to transfer the challenging and time-consuming task of software specialisation from human to machine. It will develop novel approaches for specialising and improving efficiency of generalist software for particular application domains in an automated way. More details are available at the following website:

Informal enquiries can be made by email to Dr. Petke (

Prospective PhD students must apply through the standard UCL admission process (

The next deadline for applications is April 27th.


PhD Studentship: Networking and Systems

A PhD studentship is available under the primary supervision of Dr. Stefano Vissicchio. The position is fully funded for 3.5 years.

Following a tradition of the group, the studentship will be co-supervised by Mark Handley or Brad Karp.

The position is not bound to any specific grant or project.

We therefore invite applications from talented, highly motivated students eager to work on any topic of interest for the group, including modern network architectures and paradigms like SDN and NFV; distributed, centralised and partially centralised network management systems; inter- and intra-domain routing; network monitoring, testing and security; Internet measurements.

Prospective PhD students must apply through the standard UCL admission process, in which a committee of academics drawn from the breadth of the department evaluates the entire pool of applicants.

For a September 2018 start, the next and last deadline for applications is April 27th.

More information about the application process are reported at

Interested candidates are also welcome to contact Dr. Stefano Vissicchio at for further information, and to discuss about more concrete project proposals.

Please apply here indicate clearly on your personal statement or research proposal that you are applying for this studentship specifically.


PhD Studentship:Understanding, Measuring and Improving the Security of Collaboration Tools

Whenever you communicate with someone electronically there are intermediaries that process and carry your communication, helping it reliably get to the intended destination, or storing it until the recipient goes online to collect it. We hope that these intermediaries behave properly, but sometimes they get hacked, or the people running them act maliciously, and your communications can then be tampered with and eavesdropped, with potentially severe consequences. End-to-end encryption is designed to protect against such threats and has been available for decades, but it’s still rarely used because it interferes with modern ways of working. For example, if the company that provides your email service can’t read it, you can’t search it without downloading it all; with collaboration applications, like Google Docs or chat applications, current end-to-end encryption approaches won't even work. Even if data is encrypted end-to-end, analysis of the meta-data can still violate privacy, for example disclosing who is working with whom. Anonymous communication systems like Tor can help protect meta-data but the delay that the most secure systems (e.g. Loopix) introduce would prevent standard collaboration technologies from working properly. This project will develop techniques to build collaboration applications that are end-to-end secure, and protect privacy. We will quantify how secure and effective they are, working with investigative journalists who need high levels of security in their collaboration applications.



Funding is available for a 4-year PhD studentship working on this project, providing a standard stipend and fees (at UK/EU rate). The project will be supervised by Dr Steven Murdoch and will start in October 2018 (unless agreed otherwise).


To apply click here and indicate your interest on your cover letter. To be considered for this scholarships, please submit your application no later than the 27th April 2018.


PhD Studentship: Categorical Semantics of Probabilistic Graphical Models

Project description

Scientists in diverse areas of computer science (and beyond) use graphical formalisms in order to specify and study systems based on interacting components. Graphics outperforms textual information in highlighting connectivity and resource-exchange between parts of a system. This makes diagrammatic languages particularly effective in the analysis of subtle interactions as those found in cyber-physical, concurrent and quantum systems. 

In recent years a uniform mathematical approach to these formalisms emerged, based on the language of monoidal category theory and informed by the compositional methods of programming language semantics. Whereas this perspective have been fruitfully applied to systems appearing in various contexts (especially quantum and control theory), it is at a preliminary stage when it comes to the analysis of probabilistic graphical models, such as Bayesian networks. 

The surge of interest in machine learning and probabilistic programming makes these models particularly relevant to current research. This project will develop a compositional semantics for probabilistic graphical models based on symmetric monoidal categories. Algorithms and methodologies for tasks such as Bayesian learning and inference will be analysed within this new framework, which hopefully will provide a more transparent mathematical foundation and formal proof methods.

The project’s trajectory is not set in stone. Categorical approaches to network diagrams constitute an exciting and vital research areas, with possibility of connecting to diverse research fields. For instance, the formal methodologies developed in the initial stage of the project could rather inspire developments in the formal semantics of cyber-physical systems and digital circuits. This will depend by how the student’s research interest develops.

Skills and Prerequisites

This is a project in theoretical computer science. It requires an interest in using the mindset of category theory to explore (Bayesian) probability theory. If the candidate is not already familiar with category theory, at least some background in basic logic (syntax and semantics) is required. Other useful background knowledge is denotational semantics of programming languages, formal language theory (regular languages, automata) and universal algebra. 


University College London (UCL) offers a fully funded scholarship to undertake this project in the Programming Principles, Logic and Verification Group, for a full three years, extensible to a fourth year if necessary. The scholarship will be awarded to the student who meets the UCL admissions criteria for the UCL Department of Computer Science PhD programme and who best suits the project. 

The main supervisor will be Dr. Fabio Zanasi. Applicants are encouraged to visit Zanasi’s webpage ( for getting an idea of his research activities, and to contact him by email for any enquiry/expression of interest. The starting date can be negotiated but should be between February 2018 and September 2018.

During the PhD, the student will be encouraged to visit the supervisor's collaborators (located in UK, Italy and the Netherlands) both for training and research purposes.


To apply click here and indicate your interest on your cover letter


PhD Studentship (x3): European research Council EPIC (Evolving Program Improvement Collaborators) project

The UCL CREST centre ( is offering up to three fully funded PhD studentships in the general area of Search Based Software Engineering (SBSE ( to start September 2018.

The studentships will be on the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced fellowship grant EPIC (Evolving Program Improvement Collaborators) project, held by Mark Harman.

The key idea is that evolutionary computation can evolve software  improvement collaborators; automated tools that offer specifically-evolved, explained and experimentally-justified  advice on software improvements that optimise operational performance, while maintaining and/or extending functionality.

This "Epi-Collaborator" will make suggestions, including transplantation of code from a donor system to a host, grafting of entirely new features grown (evolved) by the Epi-Collaborator, and identification and optimisation of tuneable deep parameters. A key feature (and an important scientific and technical challenge for the project) is that these suggestions need to be backed by automatically-constructed quantitative evidence that justifies, explains and documents improvements.

EPIC thereby aims to introduce a new way of developing software, as a collaboration between human and machine, integrated into typically continuous integration code review repo frameworks. Rather than seeking to replace human intelligence with artificial intelligence, EPIC thus seeks to understand and exploit the complementary strengths of each: humans' domain and contextual insights and machines' ability to intelligently search large search spaces.

The EPIC project and these studentships are funded by the award of an ERC Advanced Grant to Mark Harman, who will supervise the students, together with a supervisory team, including Dr. Federica Sarro ( and Dr. Earl Barr (, both also eminent software engineering researchers at UCL.

Prof Harman is a professor of Software Engineering at UCL but also an engineering manager at Facebook London (, where he manages the team working on the application of SBSE to automated software test design. Prof. Harman’s joint appointments foster the collaboration between academic research and industry application, where students may see the impact of their research at Facebook scale.

The closing date for applications is 27th April 2018.

Any enquiries to Professor Harman (

To apply click here and indicate your interest on your cover letter.