PhD Studentship Cyber Security – Physical Unclonable Functions

Lancaster University

You are invited to apply for fully-funded three year PhD studentship, commencing after December 2016, supported by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The scholarship covers fees for students from the UK or the EU, and provides an annual tax-free stipend of £14,296 (which will increment yearly). 

The research will focus on a novel form of Physical Unclonable Function (PUF), which was recently invented at Lancaster University. 

PUF’s are an exciting technology that can be used to provide a secret (a key). A PUF can be constructed in various ways, for example using scattering patterns of an optical medium or chip-specific transistor switch delay variations. The assumption is that the secret cannot be duplicated, as it is bound to a physical entity, which cannot be cloned. We have proposed resonant tunnelling diodes (RTDs), simple electronic structures displaying quantum confinement, for usage as PUF devices [1]. The unique electrical characteristics of each device can be translated into a secret. 

The broad aim of this research project is to investigate how to best extract secrets from RTD-PUF’s and how to use the information obtained within digital systems. For example, the properties of extracted digital information must be characterised (uniqueness, collision probability, distribution, etc); error correction schemes must be developed to compensate for measurement errors when extracting secrets; a protocol framework must be designed to facilitate authentication of devices using an RTD-PUF. 

You will work with a vibrant research team of academic staff, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students across Lancaster’s Physics Department and the School of Computing and Communications. Your supervision will be undertaken by Prof. Utz  Roedig (Computing) and Dr Robert Young (Physics). 

You will be based within Security Lancaster, an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research recognised by the UK government and GCHQ. It is one of the few multi-disciplinary centres to tackle human and technological challenges to cyber security by integrating multiple disciplines, covering physics, computer science and social sciences. Security Lancaster is a hive of research activity with over 20 academic staff and a large portfolio of security related research projects. 

Applicants should be highly motivated and have a first or upper-second class BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. International applicants must also have IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification). The work requires good mathematical background and basic understanding of cryptographic concepts. The applicant should have an understanding of or an interest in the design of communication frameworks and protocols. 

For further information, please contact Prof. Utz Roedig ( 

[1] Roberts, J, Bagci, IE, Zawawi, MAM, Sexton, J, Hulbert, N, Noori, Y, Young, M, Woodhead, C, Missous, M, Migliorato, MA, Roedig, U & Young, RJ 2015, 'Using quantum confinement to uniquely identify devices' Scientific Reports, vol 5, 16456.

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