Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Interns Showcase Results at ISI

September 2, 2019

By Hoatian Mai

Ten students from ISI's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program recently concluded their 10-week internship with a poster showcase.

ISI was selected to host the REU program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in late 2017. Through this program, ISI has welcomed a total of 17 students to its headquarters in Marina del Rey, CA, since last summer.

Participating students came from colleges and universities across the country. Jelena Mirkovic, a leading cybersecurity expert and ISI project leader, serves as the site supervisor of ISI's REU program and co-mentor for one of the projects.

"We gave the students real research problems, and they contributed with their own ideas to advance the field," said Mirkovic.

"A lot of these students are interested in grad school. They're top of their classes, and they want to learn more, so this gives them the taste of research."

This summer, ISI REU interns participated in various topics ranging from communication and cybersecurity to informational retrieval and information flow. Project topics included internet outages, password security, knowledge graphs and metadata analysis. The participants had a chance to take the lead on their own smaller project, under direct guidance of ISI researchers, who are all leading experts in their fields.

Exploring Internet Outages

"I saw the program as an opportunity to explore," said Ryan Bogutz, a rising junior of The College of New Jersey and a participant of this year's REU program at ISI.

Bogutz's summer project explores internet outage data and the events associated with these outages. For more than two years, ISI has collected a huge dataset of outages in the IPv4 Internet, with more than 660 million datapoints spanning the globe.

However, the size of the dataset made it difficult to narrow in on valuable information. Seeing potential, Bogutz and his two ISI mentors — John Heidemann and Yuri Pradkin — created a web-based tool to fetch historic data by date and identify the most interesting events of that day.

This new add-on to ISI's original interactive map can also serve as a reporting tool for other researchers or journalists exploring the data. For example, Bogutz's tool fetched a severe outage — with around 98 percent of networks inaccessible in a particular region — in Venezuela on March 8th, right in the midst of the country's presidential crisis.

"I was impressed by Ryan engaging in the challenge of how to make years of Internet outage data more accessible," said Heidemann. "By providing reports of what happens each day, he reduces millions of data points to the top ten events of the day."

"I am grateful for the opportunity to work here," said Bogutz. "Not only because my research mentors are so highly regarded, but I also got a taste of grad school because I can independently work on a project under guidance, instead of the more hand-holding research like what I had in school."