Mehdi Sabraoui takes part in the French-American Doctoral Exchange

A PhD candidate and graduate from the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mehdi Sabraoui recently returned from a visit to France as part of the French-American Doctoral Exchange. Sabroui’s work is in the field of cryptographic protocols, which involves ways for industrial controls, including power plants or banking systems, to communicate securely.

“In France, there is a lot of good theoretical research and a lot of applied research and they are separate, but in the United States they are very combined and mixed,” says Sabraoui.

Stateside, Sabraoui is an outsider looking in in terms of his research. While there are plenty of researchers investigating comparable topics, Sabraoui has few peers on his specific niche topic, which made his visit to France that much more important.

“France is a hotbed of cryptography; half of their research goes to cryptography,” he explains. “Why France does cryptography specifically, I think is that they have a long academic history of math. There is a heavy history, a heavy base of mathematics there in France.”

Given the emphasis on cryptographic research, France was an enlightening experience for Sabroui, who returned inspired to push harder.

“They were all friendly. Some were intimidating, but that’s probably in my own head. Not the students, but the researchers in their labs. It was easy to feel incompetent. It’s certainly humbling. I came back and was overwhelmed –in a good way- with what to do next. So many paths to go down, so many papers to read, being able to bring home all these ideas. My researchers here, they’re great at security, but my area is a little outsider of theirs, so going to France was super special.”