PhD Students

Saarbrücken, Germany

What we are always looking for

We are looking for PhD students in all areas related to CISPA, notably

  • Cybersecurity, Privacy, Cryptography

  • Machine Learning and Data Science

  • Efficient Algorithms and Foundations of Theoretical Computer Science

  • Software Engineering, Program Analysis and Formal Methods

We constantly seek applications from outstanding students regardless of their national origin or citizenship. Admission to the Computer Science graduate program is highly competitive. A successful Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree from a top-tier, research-oriented institution of higher education in a subject relevant to our research is required. Applicants should have an outstanding academic record (at or near the top of their class), proficiency in spoken and written English, and strong letters of recommendation from their academic advisors.

What we offer

CISPA maintains an open, international and diverse work environment. Every PhD student is a member of a research group lead by his or her supervisor. Admitted students are as a rule paid employees of CISPA with a full time contract. The working language is English.

Highlighted Positions


The group of Ali Abbasi is offering multiple positions for Ph.D. candidates interested in the area of embedded systems security. Our group's main aim is to design defense mechanisms and break existing embedded systems to improve their security. We combine deep technical insights of both firmware and hardware to build novel analysis techniques, allowing us to tackle hard-to-test and previously unknown attack surfaces. We also design and implement new methods to protect embedded systems against various classes of attacks, both on the hardware and firmware level.


For hardware security-oriented Ph.D. positions, we are looking for candidates with a strong interest in:

  • Hardware-assisted security testing and hardware vulnerabilities

  • Side-channel attacks (e.g., power analysis and instruction-level side channel profiling)

  • FPGA programming and system building at the board-level around customized circuits

  • RISC-V and ideally one of its open source designs

  • Computer architecture design, simulation, and performance evaluation

For software security-oriented Ph.D. positions, we are looking for candidates with solid programming skills in low-level languages like C/C++/Rust/Assembly and in-depth knowledge of operating systems. The candidate should also be interested in at least one of the following topics:

  • Firmware reverse engineering and/or exploit development

  • Automated software testing (e.g., fuzzing), especially with an interest in hardware/software-assisted firmware testing

  • Space assets security (e.g., in-orbit satellite systems security)

  • Security of Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Electronic Control Units (ECUs), or mobile basebands

For both types of positions, actively playing CTFs, having a public track record of vulnerability research, or building open-source security analysis tooling is a plus. A person with an offensive security mindset will enjoy the work in our group.

The group of Sebastian Brandt is looking for PhD Candidates  interested in working in the theory of distributed and parallel algorithms. Possible topics include distributed complexity theory, algorithms for symmetry-breaking and other fundamental graph problems, distributed lower bounds, the role of randomness in distributed computing, and many others. Besides computer scientists, we expressly encourage bright students from maths (in particular pure maths) to apply if they are interested in algorithmic questions.

For more information, see the full call at For an impression of the research conducted in Sebastian's group, see, and for more information about Sebastian himself, see

Ph.D. in the intersection of protocol verification and software fuzzing: The group of Robert Künnemann is offering a Ph.D. position for those interested in monitoring and fuzzing protocol implementations. The goal is to bring guarantees obtained in abstract models for TLS etc. down to the implementation level. With monitoring, we can make programs crash if they violate those guarantees. With fuzzing, we can find out if they do that before they reach the user. We plan to closely collaborate with LORIA, Nancy as part of the French-German-Center for Cybersecurity, offering the option to be co-supervised and experience the rich research environment provided by both LORIA and CISPA. The ideal candidate has a knack for formal modelling and (computational) logic, but also an interest to explore program analysis techniques like fuzzing and symbolic execution.

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The group of Krikamol Muandet has multiple openings for Ph.D. students with a strong interest in the broad areas of machine learning (ML). The group's research aims at understanding the principles that enable autonomous agents to learn from past experience and interact succesfully with complex environments, and to use this understanding to design new learning algorithms. The research theme spans the following areas:

  • Prediction: How do we design ML algorithms that can cope with distrbutional shifts? The topics of interest are domain adaption (DA), domain generalization (DG), out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization, and robustness. Kernel methods, kernel mean embedding of distributions and applications thereof are our mathematical arsenal to tackle these problems.

  • Causation: How do we leverage cause-effect relationships in improving ML models, and conversely how do we use sophisticated ML methods to aid causal inference in complex environments? Topics of interest are unobserved confounders in causal inference, spurious correlation in machine learning, distributional treatment effects, counterfactual inference, and algorithmic decision making. Natural experiments and quasi-experimental designs such as instrumental variable (IV), proxy variables, and regression discontinuity design (RDD) offers tools to address these problems.

  • Regulation: How do we regulate the deployment of ML models in heterogeneous environments to ensure the democratic use of AI? Topics of interest are feedback loops and strategic behavior. To gain a better understanding of these problems, we will be adopting techniques from algorithmic game theory, mechanism design, social choice theory, and other related sub-fields of economics.

Successful candidates are expected to have an excellent master's degree in Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, or a related discipline. A prior research experience and proficiency with programming languages are a plus.

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The research group of Christian Rossow in an enthusiastic research team that explores system and network security topics. We are searching for PhD student starting in summer/fall 2023. Our research focuses on system and network security; network security spans practical protocol analyzing, network fuzzing, DDoS attacks and defenses, attack attribution, and traffic analysis. Our system security research is concerned about designing secure networked/distributed systems using novel trusted computing primitives (e.g., Intel TDX, AMD SEV, ARM Realms) or networking harward (e.g., P4-programmable switches, SmartNICs). Either way, our primary focus is practical high-impact research, aiming to present our results at the leading conferences in our field. We can offer you an excellent working environment on the campus of TU Dortmund, strong individual supervision, interesting and cutting-edge research topics, and world-wide collaborations. You qualify for a PhD position if you (are about to) have an excellent degree at the MSc level. We expect enthusiasm and creativity from you, and (at least) a basic background in security.

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The group of Mridula Singh is looking for a PhD candidate with a strong research interest in wireless systems security. The group's research focuses on enabling secure communication, positioning, and combining sensor modalities for autonomous systems. The technologies of interest are CANBus, UWB, WiFi, 5G, LEO, and GNSS. Example research topics will include:

            Exploring security vulnerabilities of the communication technologies mainly at the physical and logical layer
            Secure sensor fusion 
            Designing secure positioning architecture for 5G 
            Secure time synchronization
            Location privacy

Students with a strong interest in 5G's physical and logical layer will be given preference. It will be a plus if the student is interested in using software-defined radios like USRPs and open-source RANs for LTE/5G. The student should have taken some introductory courses on digital circuits and wireless systems or be strongly inclined towards this field. 

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The group of Sebastian Stich is looking for a PhD candidate with a strong research interest in the analysis and development of optimization strategies for training machine learning models. The group's research focuses on distributed algorithms (such as federated and decentralized learning), algorithms for differentially private, robust, and fair machine learning, and on distributed artificial intelligence (see also for past and current research). It will be a plus if the student is motivated to work on theoretical challenges that arise in practical application in the fields of biology and health (e.g., structured, or multimodal data, low sample sizes, etc.). Within this project, the student will have the opportunity to collaborate with partners within the Helmholtz AI unit.

Requirements: The candidate is expected to have an excellent degree at the MSc level in mathematics, statistics, computer science or a related discipline. A solid mathematical foundation (e.g. probability theory, statistics, calculus, and linear algebra) is a must, experience in optimization, machine learning, data science or with a ML framework such as e.g. PyTorch, is a plus.

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The group of Andreas Zeller is looking for Ph.D. candidates and Postdocs with research interests in program analysis, software testing, and automated debugging. Research topics include novel methods for highly efficient software testing; mining specifications for inputs and programs; synthesizing oracles; explaining software failures; and more. Find Andreas Zeller here:

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The group of Xiao Zhang is looking for multiple PhD students who are interested in trustworthy machine learning research. Possible topics include foundations of adversarial machine learning, topics in trustworthy machine learning including robustness, privacy, interpretability and fairness, their applications in computer vision, neural language processing and cybersecurity, and many more. Besides computer scientists, we strongly encourage students from other scientific fields such as math and statistics to apply.

detailed descriptions about open positions and how to apply, please check this page: For more information about Xiao and his research, see his homepage:


Qualified candidates who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in a research area covered by CISPA faculty may apply at any time. We will accept applications throughout the year for exceptionally strong candidates. Admitted applicants will have an opportunity to visit the center and its partner institutions and interact with faculty and students before making their decision. Admitted students are advised by CISPA faculty. All doctoral researchers at CISPA will be a member of a graduate program at our partnering degree-granting universities. For example PhD students in Saarbrücken are part of the Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science at Saarland University, with whom we have a long-standing close collaboration. (

The center is committed to increasing the representation of women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities in Computer Science. In accordance with the Equal Opportunity Plan, the institute aims at increasing the number of women in Computer Science, and explicitly encourages women to apply. Applications of severely disabled candidates with equivalent qualifications will be given priority. In general, we welcome applications regardless of gender, nationality, ethnic and social origin, religion/belief, disability, age and sexual orientation and identity.

In case of interest in working at CISPA, please press the "Apply now" button. Please upload your documents in PDF format.  

For any questions regarding the application process, please contact us at:


The CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security provides a unique work environment that offers the advantages of a university department and a research laboratory alike. As the latest member of the Helmholtz Association, the largest research organization in Germany, CISPA has embarked on a mission: to rethink the digitalized world of the future from the ground up and make it safer through innovative cutting-edge research. In the medium term, the center will grow to more than 800 employees with not less than 60 Faculty and research group leaders. Faculty receive extremely competitive institutional funding, enjoy academic freedom, and build and lead their team of young researchers, and are granted the opportunity to teach graduate and undergraduate courses.

The CISPA headquarter is located in Saarbrücken, in the tri-border area of Germany, France, and Luxembourg. The working language is English. A command of German is not required for a successful career at CISPA.

All information on the processing of your personal data, your statements in the application process and your data privacy rights can be found in our data privacy policy.