Georgia Tech (OMSCS) Statement of Purpose

Josiah S. Bruner

As a security engineer, my current career revolves around designing safe and secure cyber-physical systems, to ensure no one’s life is cut short abruptly. This is something I find personally satisfying, and I have a strong desire to stay on this road. However, obtaining this goal is very difficult, and requires vast breadth and depth of virtually every area of computer science, including operating systems fundamentals, computer architecture, and even human-computer interaction. After being in the workforce for a relatively short amount of time, I determined that if I really wanted to contribute meaningfully to practical security (and safety), I would need to increase my depth of knowledge in computer science. An MS in CS seems to be the most time-effective mechanism to accomplish this.

Upon graduation from OMS CS, I hope to re-enter the industry, but this time from the perspective of a research engineer. I primarily want to work on answering the following two research questions:

First, “how can we measure the economic impact of security failures and determine what an appropriate level of mitigation is”? A lot of current security decisions and solutions tend to economically inefficient. Either security is ignored because the assumed costs associated with implementing countermeasures are too high, or conversely, security mitigations are applied without thought, even though they may cost more than the benefit you receive.

The second question, is: “how do we design and implement safe and secure systems, even ones in sub-optimal environments?” The traditional computing (i.e. PC) realm contains a plethora of research and solutions to ensure the security of their platform, but their environment tends to be “easy”. A personal computer is likely accessible to only a few individuals, has constant network connectivity, and no potential for safety impact. But what about an autonomous ride-sharing vehicle which can be used by different people, has limited computational resources, and could kill someone if anything goes wrong?

I believe Georgia Tech’s OMS CS program would prepare me with the knowledge in both computing systems and research to pursue answers to these questions. In particular, OMS CS’s “computing systems” specialization provides courses particularly relevant to my desires (e.g. Network security, software architecture and design, etc.)

The OMS CS program stands on a league of its own in my mind. Near the end of my undergraduate career, I considered graduate school, but around the same time married a wonderful person. Sadly, this meant taking a break from work to pursue full-time studies was out of the picture. OMS CS solves this problem, while still providing excellent educational rigor. A hard offer to beat.

Indeed, this rigor is another primary reason for me choosing Georgia Tech’s OMS CS program. I investigated various online masters programs at other reputable institutions, but never found a program that seemed equivalent to an in-person Masters. I’m not interested in a degree for the sake of reputation, but rather the learning and experience that comes with it. OMS CS seems to do a great job staying true to a traditional masters program’s rigor while taking the good parts of MOOCs. In fact, I asked one of my undergraduate professors his opinion on online CS MS programs and he noted that:

“The Georgia Tech one is the only good one in CS that I am aware of. I know the people involved personally (Alex Orso, Udacity, etc.) and can speak to the quality and care.”

This statement solidified my interest in Georgia Tech, and I look forward to growing my computer science abilities in the OMS CS program.