Funded UCDCS/JRC Digital Forensics PhD Opportunity


4-year funded PhD studentship co-supervised and co-located between the UCD School of Computer Science and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The UCD School of Computer Science is Ireland’s leading computer science school in terms of teaching and research. It offers teaching programmes at BSc and Masters level that attract top students from Ireland and overseas. The staff are active in research and have leadership positions in research programmes, such as Lero (, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (, and the CeADAR Centre for Applied Data Analytics and Machine Intelligence ( The school is committed to excellence in teaching and research and to supporting the Information & Communications Technology sector that is such an important part of the Irish economy. The School has a long-established research and teaching track record in digital forensics and cybersecurity and hosts the Centre for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation (, the Forensics and Security Research Group (, and provides graduate taught programmes in this area.

At the JRC (, the Digital Citizen’s and Cybersecurity unit is carrying out research into cybercrime investigation and digital forensics in order to increase and strengthen European Law Enforcement Agencies with new tools and capabilities. These research activities focus on terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime, and child sexual abuse online. The main objective is to develop new tools to assist investigators in identifying, localising and determining criminal content. Either of the two projects described below are the focus of this call and applicants should indicate their preferred project and highlight their suitability for this project in the application’s cover letter.

PhD Project 1: Context-based Decryption

The quantity of data that can be extracted from the digital life of a person is nowadays massive and tends to increase. However, a large quantity of metadata and, more generally, irrelevant information, are stored together with the targeted contextual data. Generating a personal semantic space of a suspect – e.g. a vector space model built from the contextual data using word embedding – without any filter will be most probably polluted by such information, potentially reducing the overall quality of a password candidate extraction exploiting such space.  The objective of the doctoral student is to analyse the impact of different technics of data filtering, including data classification, at the level of the source dataset itself or within the generated semantic space so as to improve the quality and efficiency of a password candidate generator/extractor. 

PhD Project 2: Cluster Analysis for Digital Forensics and Crime Investigation

Nowadays, crime investigators face an ever-increasing amount of potential digital evidence from suspects which will often be in the form of mostly unstructured and unlabelled data and seemingly uncorrelated information. Manually sorting out and understanding this type of data constitutes a considerable challenge, or at least a prohibitively time-consuming activity. This PhD project will be part of an effort to explore and leverage the capabilities of cluster algorithms and unsupervised machine learning towards creating a range of robust analysis tools for criminal investigators. Available research topics range from the concrete development of a robust forensic cluster tool, to thorough analysis and development of machine learning algorithms with respect to the special needs of investigators, or finally to research into novel, tailored algorithm solutions employing state of the art techniques from deep and statistical learning.

Eligibility Criteria

  • First or upper second class honours Bachelor’s Degree and/or Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Digital Forensics or a relevant subject.
  • Applicants must satisfy the UCD Minimum Language Requirements (as outlined at

Mobility Requirement

Please note that the successful candidate will spend two years on-site at the JRC in Ispra, Italy, approximately during the second and third year of the UCD structured 48-month PhD programme. During this time in Italy, the candidate will periodically return to UCD to fulfil their PhD programme requirements (supervisor meeting, doctoral studies panel meetings, attending and presenting at seminars, etc.).

Duration and Salary

The scholarship is for a four-year period, and when based in UCD offers a tax-free stipend of €18,000 per annum, plus payment of PhD fees, an allowance in the first year to purchase a computer, and conference travel allowance. Scholarships would ideally start in January/February 2019. When based in the JRC, the student will be offered a JRC “Grantholder 20” contract (

About University College Dublin

University College Dublin (UCD) is one of Europe's leading research-intensive universities. It is Ireland's largest and most diverse university with over 30,000 students, drawn from approximately 124 countries. UCD is Ireland's leader in graduate education with over 8,000 graduate students, with almost a quarter being graduate research students. It is home to over 7,000 international students and delivers degrees to over 5,000 students on overseas campuses. For information on studying at UCD and the supports provided for PhD Studentships, please consult:

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquiries about these positions may be made to Dr. Mark Scanlon, UCD School of Computer Science, University College Dublin (

Submission Process & Application End Date

Please send your CV (maximum length 2 pages including names and contact details of three referees), a cover letter outlining your suitability for the role and your preferred choice of project (maximum 2 pages), and an example of your writing (publication, thesis, report, dissertation, etc.). Applications should be sent by email to Dr Mark Scanlon ( and include the following text in the subject line: “UCD-JRC PhD Application”.

The closing date for applications is Friday, 14th December 2018, 5pm (Irish Time).