Meet the Faculty - Kangjie Lu

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

When I was an undergraduate student, my major was software engineering. At that time, I never thought I would stay in academia. My goal was to join industry and write code, because I believed that was the way to do something impactful. My mind changed when I was a master’s student and there was an internship opportunity at Singapore Management University. It focused on cybersecurity research. I found myself truly fascinated with research and developing novel solutions to interesting problems. That experience inspired me to pursue a PhD in computer science.

I did my PhD at Georgia Tech, which was another five years of research experience and solidified my career goal to stay in academia. In 2017, I interviewed at the University of Minnesota. During my visit, I was very excited about the department in all aspects. It’s a collegial and supportive department. Nick Hopper was my host and I still remember the conversations we had after dinner. I told him how much I loved the department and that I wanted to work here. And that was that.    

Tell us more about your current research!

My research goal is to secure computer systems in principled and practical ways. My research not only addresses fundamental problems in security, but also develops practical techniques to secure real-world systems. For example, we have made a large number of security upgrades on widely used systems like the Android OS and Firefox Browser. Our open-sourced tools have been used by major software providers, such as Linux, IBM and Google.

Specifically, I think there are three major problems in cybersecurity, and I am working on them: 1) the security of foundational software; 2) the security of open-source ecosystems; and 3) the security of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. My research is dynamic and interdisciplinary. It often involves other areas, such as programming masses, operating systems, machine learning, programming languages, compilers and architectures.    

What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

My short term goal for the next couple of years is to secure the three main systems in cybersecurity - foundation software, open-source ecosystems, and AI. My long term goal is to build and sustain a trustworthy cyber world. I hope in the future when people are using computer systems, they have the confidence that their personal information is protected and their systems are secure. That’s my ultimate goal.

What can students expect to get out of your courses?

I have been teaching two courses - CSCI 4061 - Introduction to Operating Systems, and CSCI 5271 Introduction to Computer Security. 4051 teaches the principles and concepts of operating systems and how to interact with operating systems through different interfaces. 5271 focuses on concepts, techniques, and weaknesses of different computer systems. It also covers the basics of security and some scientific principles behind cyber attacks.

Both courses provide hands-on projects, and students learn through practical experience. In the security course, there is a project that allows students to explore vulnerabilities and launch an attack in a safe, controlled environment.  

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy delivering the basics as well as advanced topics to students. In my security course, I am really enjoying the hands-on attack-defense projects because they are typically the first of its kind to students. When I see them succeed in their projects and see their reaction, it’s very exciting and fun.

What do you do outside of the classroom for fun?

I love fishing and boating in the wonderful lakes in Minnesota. I also love biking and appreciate the bike lanes in the city. I like walking by the Mississippi River and Stone Arch Bridge.

Is there anything else you would like students to know about you?

My research lab is still growing and there are opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students to get experience. If you are interested in security and operating systems, let us know and hopefully we can get you on a project!