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PhD scholarships: Automation of cyber software security targeting on agriculture, smart contract and blockchain, Internet-of-Things and mobile devices

The University of Queensland

Job Description

Job No:512116
Area:Faculty Of Engineering, Architecture & Info Tech
Salary (FTE):RTP Scholarship NON-BANDED ($28,092.00 - $28,092.00)
Work type:Full Time - Scholarship
Location: St Lucia

Research Environment

UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The award

Five PhD positions are available in 2020 and 2021 in total. Two positions for 2020 and three positions for 2021. We are looking for passionate PhD researchers who are interested in Cybersecurity.

Students can choose the research topic from two perspectives: agriculture supply chain and automation. Within the automation research topic, four subtopics are provided. Detailed research topics are listed below:

  1. Traceability and Provenance Across Agriculture Digital Supply Chains: To assure the quality of agricultural products during export situations, there is often a need for the verification, traceability, and provenance of the data and products. There are also open research opportunities in agricultural digital supply chains. In this project, the research will focus on provenance-centric approaches to (1) understanding and modeling agricultural supply chains and their business processes, and (2) innovate on ways to provide high-quality and high-integrity provenance for both data and products in the agricultural sectors across Australia.
  2. Operational Technology Cyber Automation Utilizing Data Provenance and Automated Planning: With increased remote management of operational technology (OT), we are witnessing an increased number of attacks and threats to devices, communication protocols, and the data flows of critical infrastructure. While there is ongoing work in vulnerability research and the detection of these vulnerabilities, there are further research opportunities for the creation of automation tools to assist asset owners and engineers to detect, plan and to respond to the threats. Using data provenance approaches, this research will create OT cyber automation methods which will be agnostic to heterogeneous technology device and protocol and allow cyber response to scale to respond to the growth of OT cyber threats. In order to conduct the security analysis, technologies such as program analysis, formal analysis, quantitate analysis are utilized for analyzing the system/source code, network protocols, etc. 
    • Analysis of blockchain and smart contracts: Blockchain-based applications are emerging in various domains, as they can replace the centralized intermediary with better trust. This research aims to conduct security analysis targeting on blockchain and based applications in the form of smart contracts.  
    • Analysis of IoT (Internet of Things): As the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) among various industries continues to rise, securing IoT devices and their communication becomes a critical element. This research will be focused on security analytics to IoT systems. It will develop approaches to analyze various heterogenous devices and protocols of IoT.  
    • Deep learning for symbolic execution: Symbolic execution relies on massive constraint solving, which is computationally expensive for traditional algorithms. This research will explore using deep learning for this task. It will develop approaches based on deep learning and program analysis.  
    • Analysis of mobile apps and systems: The mobile phone used in our daily life is not only for texting and calling but for multiple purposes such as remote controlling and sharing documents. This research focuses on conducting security analysis to investigate whether users’ privacies are properly protected while leveraging these newly developed functionalities.

A working knowledge of programming languages (e.g., C/C++, Java, Python) and some basic knowledge about software engineering, information security and machine learning would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ. Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of computer science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of software engineering, hardware/software security, web security, reverse engineering and formal analysis of security is highly desirable.


The 2021 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$28,597 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three years with one possible extension of up to 6 months each in approved circumstances (condition apply)


For further information, please contact Dr Siqi Ma (*********

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘SECURITY-KO’ in the 'Name of scholarship' field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

Advertised: 30 Nov 2020
Applications close: 21 Feb 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time