CPSC 538M: Topics in Systems Security

The goal of the project is to provide the opportunity for you to conduct research in some security-oriented topic.

Projects overlapping with other research: You could undertake a project related to your own research, if you can demonstrate how it is related to and/or influenced by some topic from CPSC 538M. In other words, your project in CPSC 538M must extend your research work in some new and/or different way.


In the project, you must propose a research project with a problem statment and a research plan, conduct the research, and write up your research results and experience. There are four deliverables in the project: a research proposal, a proposal presentation, a final presentation, and a final report.

Note: It is okay if you do not complete a full-fledged project by the end of the term. The goal is to learn how to go from a one-line problem to a fully scoped out research problem, then try and identify potential solutions. If a topic is difficult and you do not reach the practical implementation stage, that will be fine.

Research proposal (20%)

The proposal should include the following sections and must be minimally three pages, excluding bibliography, typeset in two-column format. Use the USENIX style template.

Introduction: In this section, you will explain what is the problem, why is it an important problem, and why are you interested in this problem? Describe the background and motivation for the problem you are interested in, and pose a concrete research question.

Related work: Do a brief survey of related work in the problem space. This includes papers that solve the same problem but with a different approach and papers whose ideas you build upon in your own work. Compare and contrast your own proposed solution with each related work. Some of the papers in related work may be required to explain the background and motivation in the introduction.

Even if you have not read all the related work by the time of proposal submission, make a list of papers that you will be covering by the final report submission.

Proposed solution: Describe your proposed solution and planned methodology to answer the research question at a high level.

Evaluation methodology: Describe how you plan to evaluate your proposed solution. What is your security evaluation plan? What is your performance evaluation plan? What kind of data (or plots) would you generate from the evaluation?

Experimental setup: What equipment, software, tools do you need for your solution and evaluation? If you need anything specific, please speak to us as soon as possible.

Proposal presentation (10%)

Each group will give a 5-7 min presentation followed by 3-5 min of Q&A and feedback from the class. Focus on presenting:

Final presentation (20%)

Each group will give a 10 min presentation followed by 5 min of Q&A from the class. The presentation would be similar to a conference or workshop talk. Focus on presenting the motivation, the problem, one key idea of your project, and the results.

Final report (50%)

The final report must include similar sections as in the proposal but written in a way to describe what has been done. Additionally, add a section describing the limitations of your work and how the research can be extended (by you or someone else) in the future.


Each student will be required to give feedback on at least one other group’s project proposal. Your feedback will count towards your class participation points. We will use HotCRP to simulate a conference-style review process.

In addition to feedback from the class, each group can schedule meetings with the instructor to discuss their project idea, methodology, milestones, and progress. At the minimum, we expect to meet with you once before the proposal submission deadline and once before the final presentation. You can schedule more meetings with us on an on-demand basis.