Recruiting PhD students

Hi! I’m Nathan Malkin, an assistant professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and I’m looking for PhD students to join me in researching user experience (UX) and human factors in privacy & security.

The deadline for the next admissions cycle is December 15, 2024

Since that’s relatively far into the future, I recommend contacting me first if you want to apply. There may be some potential for processing applications on a rolling basis.


I will be hiring at least one fully-funded PhD student.

Research area:

  • How do people make security/privacy decisions, and how can we make it easier for them?

Sample research topics:

  • Privacy in ubiquitous computing environments (e.g., smart home and AR/VR)
  • Security for at-risk users and vulnerable populations
  • Usability improvements to authentication


  • Bachelors or master’s degree in computer science or related field
  • Or: social science (economics, sociology, psychology, etc.) background with strong quantitative skills

Below, I provide additional information and try to answer frequently asked questions.

Position details and expectations

What would you be working on?

I work at the intersection of security and privacy with human-computer interaction and social computing. My goal is to make computing more private and secure; to do this, I focus on understanding and leveraging human factors.

Much of my research involves working directly with people to understand how they make security and privacy decisions. This often involves surveys and interviews, as well as direct experiments and interventions. My research also frequently has a design component, for example prototyping an interface and measuring how people use it.

Here are examples of questions I’ve studied in the past:

You can see my publications for more examples of projects you might work on.

As a PhD student, you will have substantial freedom to determine the topic you work on, as long as it falls broadly into the category of human-centered security. Otherwise, your research interests may be a better fit for one of the many other awesome faculty in the departments of Informatics, Computer Science, or Data Science.

What background do you need to have?

The most important prerequisite for this position is research fit — a strong interest in the areas and approaches described above. A PhD typically takes 4–7 years, and that’s way too much time to spend on something you’re not interested in.

I expect most candidates will have a bachelor’s or master’s in computer science or data science, with at least some experience in security.

Candidates with social science backgrounds (economics, sociology, psychology, etc.) could be a good fit as well. They will likely need to have experience with statistics and quantitative analysis, and be comfortable with some amount of coding (e.g., in Python or R) that these often require.

Application process and suggestions

The authoritative source of information, and also the place where you actually apply, is Below, I’ve tried to gather some information that may help, but please double-check everything yourself:

You do not need to email me before applying. If you do decide to email me or another professor, here’s some great advice from David Evans. If you have questions not addressed on this page, I will do my best to answer them.

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for a Fall 2024 start date has passed. The next deadline will be December 15, 2024, for the term beginning Fall 2025. (There is also an earlier fall deadline, October 15, but personally I won’t be making any final decisions until after the December deadline, so there is no advantage to applying early.)

What is included in the application?

In order to apply for the PhD program, you need to submit the following materials:

    • This should describe your motivation for pursuing a doctoral degree, research interests and prior research experience, etc.
    • These statements are most effective when they are specific and go into depth about your research experiences and future ideas. Here’s some more personal advice about how to write the SoP.
    • I also recommend keeping in mind the faculty with whom you’d be working.
    • Letters from professors are most effective.
    • Several professors have written advice for other faculty, especially from non-US institutions, that you might consider passing along:
    • I’m often asked whether GRE scores are required. To the best of my knowledge they are, but you should double-check with the respective program to be sure.
    • If it helps, you should know that the exam can be taken completely online.

Should you apply to the Information Science or Computer Science PhD program?

My home department is Informatics, so, if you are certain that you want to work specifically with me, things will be easier, with respect to admissions and advising, if you apply for the doctoral degree in Information Science. However, I am able to advise students in CS as well. So if there are other faculty on the CS side whom you are considering as advisors (or if you really want your degree to say “PhD in Computer Science” rather than “PhD in Information Science”), it could make sense to apply to CS instead. Keep in mind, though, that the two programs will have slightly different requirements (such as which courses you need to take). If you do apply to CS, you should send me a note after you have applied, because otherwise there may be a delay in getting your application to me.

What happens after you apply?

I will review all applications from prospective students who are interested in working with me and will invite some candidates to a (typically multi-part) interview. Your application must also be reviewed and approved by the department’s admissions committee. Initial offers are usually sent by February, but final decisions may not be made until much later, since first-choice candidates may decline their offers, leaving the spot open to others.

If you apply to the NJIT CS department, you should know that they follow a somewhat different process, and some applicants receive an offer of admission without an accompanying award of financial support. At that point, applicants can contact faculty directly to try to arrange funding. However, at least in my case, if I felt that there was a good match, I likely would have already reached out to you.