Steven M. Bellovin—Studying Security With Me

I'm retiring and no longer accepting new research or project students.

If you want to do security research at Columbia, there are several other faculty members whose primary focus is security: Suman Jana, Simha Sethumadhavan, Tal Malkin, and Sal Stolfo — whose Several others, including Roxana Geambasu and Henning Schulzrinne, do a lot of security-related work.


Before you apply, think carefully about which faculty members have interests that match yours.

Reading and evaluating applications is a difficult, painful, and time-consuming business; essentially no one will review resumes ahead of time. Repeat: No one will evaluate your resume, CV, etc., ahead of time. It's not worth your while to send these along. Please note the department's admissions deadlines.


MS students are encouraged to participate in research. This can be done directly on a faculty member's project, or it can be done as an independent study project as COMS E6901.

Funding is more problematic. There are MS graduate research assistants in the department; except under extremely unusual circumstances, few will offer such a position to an incoming MS student.

There is an MS track in Computer Security; see For admissions information, see

Undergraduate or Graduate Independent Study

If you want to do independent research, I strongly urge you to read Brian Kernighan's excellent advice on independent study projects before you approach any faculty member.

Please note the following requirements from the W6901 description, which I think should apply to any of these courses:

Before registering, the student must submit a written proposal to the instructor for review. The proposal should give a brief outline of the project, estimated schedule of completion, and computer resources needed. Oral and written reports are required.

This proposal is, in effect, a contract: faculty assign a grade based on how well you accomplish your plan. In other words, we want to know the scope of the project and the deliverables: code, a written description, a draft research paper suitable for submission, etc. But there's another, equally important role: it lets us judge the scope of the project, and lets us point you to resources and prior work.

It is important to stay in regular touch with your research advisor.

For major projects, e.g., theses and ones where the goal is a published paper, expect to provide a final draft about three weeks before the end of the semester. This will give time to provide you with feedback, and for you to make appropriate revisions.

Admission Chances

Per the above, I cannot predict anyone's odds of admission, nor will I try. If you ask me that question, at best you'll receive a pointer to this answer; more likely, I'll delete your mail without bothering to reply. (If I were nasty, I'd reply asking you why I should bother admitting someone who doesn't take the trouble to read my web page on the subject; fortunately, I'm usually not that nasty.) y/p>