Can I TA CY 3740 / CY 5770?


Foremost, please do NOT email me. This page exists because I get a ludicrous amount of emails on the topic. I won't respond.

I have specific needs from my TAs. You'll assist students 1:1 during labs and office hours. You'll guide discussions online every day. Therefore, it's crucial that you already know the material well and have hands-on exploitation experience.

I prioritize applications in this order:

  1. You've already taken my courses. The more challenges completed, the better.
  2. You've taken CY 5770 (not 3740, not 2550) with Engin or Wil.
  3. You have hands-on systems security experience and you can demonstrate it.

I immediately reject applicants who don't have a practical security background. Practical security background means discovering your own vulnerabilities and crafting your own exploits, NOT vulnerability management with Black Duck. If you aren't comfortable with those technical details, you are below the bargaining range. I hate to exclude you, but ensuring that students learn effectively takes the top priority. I can't train TAs from scratch while simultaneously performing my teaching tasks to spec.

Even if you are an excellent fit, I get very few TA slots depending on class size, so you may not get picked. Have a plan B.

Here's how to apply:

  1. Resist the urge to email me.
  2. Apply through the normal hiring channels.
  3. Were you my student in a previous class?
    • YES? You are all set. No need to provide a resume. Leave blank the silly questions about why you want to be a TA and other irrelevancies; you aren't required to explain yourself and I won't read them.
    • NO? Read the course description here and present evidence that you are knowledgeable in the ways of systems attacks and defenses covered there. Don't email me! Add the evidence to your application.

I'll expect you to be available during class hours in person. Also notice that I always teach late evening blocks, i.e., 6 to 10pm. You won't need to be there for all 4 hours, but if there is an emergency, I should be able to summon you on command. Check the course schedule and make sure you can make it before you apply.

In return, you can expect from me a fulfilling TA season and the opportunity to max out your pay hours.

I applied for a TA position. When do I hear back?

I don't know. That's an HR question.

Can I TA and co-op/intern at the same time?

Also an HR question.

Can I audit your classes?

Yes. See the official university audit policy and process, undergraduate here, and graduate here.

Follow the process, and I will approve your petition. Don't ask me for permission, consider yourself already approved. Fight it out with your academic advisor instead. Be aware that this will block you from taking the course for credit later.

I no longer allow students to informally sit in on classes. If you don't register as an audit student, you can't audit. This is not negotiable.

A heads up that I average ~3 hyped up audit students every term. Nobody has made it beyond lecture 2 so far.

Can I do a PhD/MS/XyZ with you?


I'm not a full-time tenure-track professor and therefore I cannot hire or fund graduate students on my own. You will have to look elsewhere. Northeastern has one of the largest and highest quality security faculty pools in the area; there is no shortage of opportunities. After you secure your formal position and funding, I'd be happy to discuss research and mentor you if your official advisor agrees to it.

Can I do a directed study/research/reading course with you for credit?

No. Ditto above, not a full-time professor. The department has made it clear that this is not doable.

But my advisor says I can do a directed study/research/reading course with you for credit?

They are wrong.

Can I work with you just for the heck of it then?

Unlikely. I have an ever-increasing load of official work and students to mentor, they get priority, which unfortunately leaves little time for volunteering or fun projects these days. Also see above, I can offer you no pay or course credit. I recommend that you seek formal placement with one of Northeastern's security labs instead. We may then find a way to collaborate.

Can you write me a recommendation letter?

Maybe. If you have worked with me on a research project or TA'd for me: Let's chat.

If you only took my classes: No.

"They got an A" is the kiss of death that guarantees your letter goes straight in the trash, and I can't offer any higher praise given the context of my courses. My letters will hurt your application, and even if you have masochistic tendencies, I won't waste my time writing you a bad letter. Go to professors or co-op managers with whom you had a longer-term work relationship.

I will not reconsider this policy. So please don't ask.

Can I list you as a reference in my job application?

Ditto above. If you only took a class with me, that's still a no.

Can I get a referral for <your workplace>?

Yes, if you meet one of the below conditions.

If you qualify, email me with links to specific job posts BEFORE you start your application. I can't submit formal referrals if you have started a draft application.

Can I connect with you on LinkedIn?

Yes. I have no issues connecting with my students. Know that my network is better curated than most; I'll ignore you if I've never met you.

Can I connect with you on other social networks?

Yes. If you can find me, you've earned it.

My question isn't answered here. Can I send you an email?

Yes. If it's truly not covered here, ask away. If it's covered, I'll ignore you.