PhD Projects

Below are some PhD projects that I am advertising. The projects would be undertaken in the School of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK.

If you are an exceptional student with a strong honours or MSc degree, and you are interested in undertaking a PhD project with me, please email me at

Data-driven authentication (funded position)

We have a fully funded PhD/EngD position in the School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK. The position is co-funded by The Data Lab and Payfont Limited through The Data Lab’s Collaborative PhD & EngD Projects programme. The student will spend part of their time at Heriot-Watt University, and part at Payfont, for the duration of their studies.

Project title: Measuring the security of implicit, multi-factor authentication

Project description:
The aim is to design and implement new methods for making effective authentication decisions from multiple data components, and will consist of two main stages: (i) Designing and implementing new, implicit forms of authentication that involve learning from a person’s behaviour, and (ii) Designing and implementing methods for combining and scoring multiple forms of authentication. The resultant methods would contribute to Payfont’s IOMI (I Own My Identity) technology framework. The student will be supervised by Dr. Mike Just (Heriot-Watt), Dr. Michael Lones (Heriot-Watt) and Dr. Lu Fan (Payfont).

Candidate profile:
The preferred candidate will have good technical skills with strengths in computer programming and machine learning, and a strong interest in computer security. The candidate will be expected to have (or expect to gain) a 1st-class honours degree in computer science, or at least a 2nd-class honours degree and a MSc degree in computer science (or related subject area). The student would ideally begin their studies in September 2017.

Funding details:
The position will be funded for at most four years and includes payment of fees (up to EU level) and a non-taxable stipend of around £16,000 per annum. Overseas students would be required to pay the fee difference from EU level.

How to apply (DEADLINE 15th May 2017):

To apply for this position, please complete the application form. When completing the application form, be sure to specify “Dr. Mike Just” as the project supervisor, and specify “Data Lab funded” as the source of funding. Applicants are requested to send an email to Dr. Mike Just once they have submitted their application.

For further information regarding this position please email Mike Just.

Conversational authentication

This project is supervised by Dr. Mike Just and Prof. Oliver Lemon and the research would be undertaken as part of the Interactive and Trustworthy Technologies Group and the Interaction Lab.

Project title:
” ‘Hi Robot, it’s me’: Building an interactive system for human authentication”

Project description
Automated conversational agents and systems such as chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated and able to undertake complex tasks. More recently interactive conversational systems have been programmed to behave in a more human-like way and to engage in conversations with real people. Related to this, when checking your identity (for example when speaking with your bank), humans are often asked to answer a series of specific challenge questions, in order to prove that they are who they claim to be. Even if your answers to some of these questions are vague or incorrect, the dialogue usually continues until you either pass the test, or are thought to be lying. This research will involve the development of an automated conversational system that can interact with, and authenticate, a real person. Some of the main challenge areas will be how to automatically generate suitable questions from information held about a person, and how the system’s belief that the person is trustworthy changes during the conversation.

For further information regarding this position please email Mike Just.