Two graduates move to faculty positions

Two PhD graduates in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have been accepted as new tenure-track faculty members – a significant achievement for recent graduates.

Aryan Deshwal
Aryan Deshwal

Aryan Deshwal will take a faculty position in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. There he will teach courses in foundations of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as well as courses in their applications in science and engineering. Deshwal is conducting research in AI and ML, where he is focused on developing new methods for solving problems in engineering and science applications. During his time at WSU, he received several awards, including Voiland College’s outstanding PhD dissertation, outstanding graduate research assistant, and outstanding teaching assistant awards. He was also selected to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in 2022.

Wen Li
Wen Li

Wen Li will be heading to the Department of Computer Science at Utah State University, where he will be teaching a software security course as well as classes in program analysis and reverse engineering and their applications. His research is in the area of software security and engineering as well as network security.  During his time at WSU, he published work in the journal Association for Computing Machinery’s Transaction on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM ) and was accepted to present at the Computer and Communications Security and USENIX Security conferences. He was also named an outstanding research assistant in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Here’s what they had to say about their time and training at WSU:

How do you think your education at WSU helped prepare you to be a faculty member?

Dr. Deshwal: I think WSU’s education has been really instrumental for my career. The professors at WSU I worked with on projects are really passionate about their research and teaching which rubs onto you pretty quickly. This is exemplified the best by my advisor Prof Jana who has been a constant source of endless support. I feel really fortunate to be his student. He taught me how to think deeply but critically about research while asking the right questions.  

The overall curriculum at WSU generally and EECS specifically is quite rigorous and forward looking. I also enjoyed the fact that I was allowed to take courses across different departments. For example, some of the courses I took with Prof Bala (Maths department) are probably the best in my life. 

Dr. Li: I firmly believe that WSU offers an excellent platform for students to showcase their talents and engage in meaningful educational experiences. Personally, I have had the privilege to serve as a teaching assistant for various classes and to participate in extensive research projects focused on software security under the guidance of my supervisor. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with distinguished security researchers worldwide. These experiences have greatly contributed to my academic growth and have set me on the path to pursuing a career in academia.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned as a PhD student here?

Dr. Deshwal: Other than new technical/research skills (which is obviously a big part of doing a PhD), I think this time period also teaches you a lot about broad life skills, one major one being that of perseverance.  If I can give one message to future students reading this: If your ideas are not working, papers are not getting published, and things don’t seem clear right now, just keep on with the right process and it will work out.

I also strongly believe that for students to flourish (to execute the right process), an encouraging and supportive environment is very important. For example, failure is pretty normal in research and it is very important for the advisor/lab/university to allow PhD students the space for making mistakes/failure and grow over time. I’ve been fortunate that I got that environment here at WSU. 

Dr. Li: Continuing to work through bottlenecks until everything looks bright is a valuable lesson that I learned during my PhD journey. It taught me the importance of persistence and determination in achieving my goals. Rather than getting discouraged by obstacles, I learned to view them as opportunities for growth and improvement. By staying focused and committed, even during the most challenging times, I was able to eventually overcome bottlenecks and achieve success.

What will you miss about the Palouse? 

Dr. Deshwal:  I am already nostalgic in leaving the place.  I made lifelong friends here and I will miss spending time with them. I would miss all our impromptu research/life discussions in Prof Jana’s office and our lab and working on paper deadlines together. And of-course Ferdinands! It was truly a joyful ride here being a Coug and I will miss it — Once a coug, always a coug!

Dr. Li: There are many things that have made my time on the Palouse truly memorable. I will miss the warmth and camaraderie of my neighbors in the community, the support and guidance from the kind professors and classmates at WSU, the camaraderie of my exercise partners in the Badminton club, the opportunity for relaxing outdoor activities that the area offers and many more. These experiences have enriched my life and will always hold a special place in my heart.