Zhe Liu’s passion for research grew from a desire to find out how things work and why. Considering himself as a ‘Luxembourg-made Chinese researcher’, Zhe came to Luxembourg in 2011 for his AFR PhD, a project for which he later won an FNR Award for ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’ in 2016. After his PhD, Zhe moved to Canada but, missing Luxembourg, he returned to the Grand Duchy and is now continuing his research into the security of Wireless Sensor Networks at the SnT at the University of Luxembourg, as a research associate. We spoke to Zhe about his research, goals and Luxembourg’s potential as a research destination.
Your research deals with the security of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs), why is this important, and what does your research entail?
“WSNs are nowadays used in a wide variety of applications, even though few people recognize them. For example, sensors play a crucial role in autonomous vehicles (i.e. self-driving cars) as they enable them to recognize traffic conditions or road signs.
“Wireless sensors are also important in health care, e.g. to monitor the vital body functions of a patient. In both application domains, security is of paramount importance since an attacker with the ability to manipulate sensor readings or to suppress their transmission can cause serious harm, which could in the worst case even be life-threatening.
“I design and implement cryptographic algorithms (including both pre-quantum and post-quantum variants) to protect the data collected by small sensor nodes and the transmission of data to a central computer for evaluation and decision making.”
What inspired you to pursue the path of research?
“I was always interested in the world around me and wanted to figure out how things work and why. For me, it started as a child, since I always found it very exciting to know new things and learn as much as I could about everything I saw around. Research is like ‘You can ask a simple question, think of a way to answer it, and then try to figure it out if you are right or wrong.’
“When I was an M.Sc. student, I had the opportunity to work with some world-renowned professors and tried to find new solutions for some open problems. What I like about being a researcher is that you are given the freedom to explore new things and have the chance to constantly feel young. I get to learn as much as I can and try to find better solutions to make the Internet more secure, which in the end I hope will contribute to give people a better standard of living.”
What are your goals, as a researcher?
“The main goal I would like to achieve is that my research generates impact in the real world. The importance of focusing on real-world problems and coming up with practical solutions is something I learned in the past few years during my PhD studies and thereafter as an independent researcher.
“I am also lucky to have the opportunity to work with some world-class researchers, most notably my PhD supervisors Prof Jean-Sébastien Coron and Johann Großschädl at the Laboratory of Algorithmics, Cryptology and Security (LACS) of University of Luxembourg, my post-doc supervisors Prof Michele Mosca and Prof David Jao at the Insitute for Quantum Computing (IQC) of the University of Waterloo, as well as Prof Peter Ryan from SnT.
“I was impressed by their research skills and they have shown me great examples on how to pick interesting research topics and how to conduct high-quality research.”
You are originally from China, what made you decide to come to Luxembourg?
“I consider myself a Luxembourg-made Chinese researcher! My connection with University of Luxembourg started in 2009 when I was one of three students to take part in an exchange program between Shandong University and the University of Luxembourg. Later, in 2011, I received an AFR PhD grant, which made it possible to return to the University of Luxembourg for four more years. After finishing my PhD, I worked in Canada for 1.5 years, but I personally missed the great time I had in Luxembourg, especially the fantastic research environment, the international flair of the country, and the diverse cultures around.”
What have been some of the highlights during your time in Luxembourg?
“I am the first student from China who received the FNR Outstanding PhD Thesis Award, which is a great honour for me. In April 2017, I returned to Luxembourg to join SnT as a research associate after my research stay in Canada. One of my first activities in SnT was to write a funding proposal for an FNR CORE Junior project.
“In summary, my research career and progress has to a large extent been enabled by the University of Luxembourg and supported by the FNR. I hope that one day I will be in a position to further strengthen the ties between Luxembourg and China by initiating research collaborations and enabling Luxembourgish students to spend research stays in China.”
You spent some time in Canada after finishing your PhD in Luxembourg, but you have now come back to Luxembourg. What do you think about Luxembourg’s potential as a research destination?
“In the past decade, the government of Luxembourg has increased the annual budgets for research activities significantly to invest in cutting-edge research. Luxembourg has undergone a rapid development is now establishing itself as a major research center in Europe. One of the landmark events in computer science was the foundation of SnT, which provides an excellent environment to conduct internationally competitive research in information security and cryptography.”
Watch Zhe Liu’s video produced for his 2016 FNR Award in the category ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’:
Published 17 August 2017
About Spotlight on Young Researchers
Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 24th in a series of 25 articles, which are published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.
September 30, 2021
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July 18, 2017
Luxembourg nationals Max Greisen and Véronique Cornu have many things in common: They are both educated in the field of psychology, they are both PhD researchers at the University of Luxembourg – and they both work with language-free approaches to early mathematical development of multilingual children. Max develops and implements animations that help assess early numerical competencies, while Véronique develops training methods to help overcome language barriers in early math education.
April 14, 2022
In nature, we see hyperbolic forms in corals, flatworms, and many other species of reef organisms, such as sponges and kelps. The hyperbolic spaces are also of interest for mathematicians, who are looking to prove the solvability of invariant systems of differential equations in unusual spaces such as these.
July 12, 2019
Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? This is one of the questions Henderika (Herie) de Vries wants to answer. Having already discovered that cultural differences impact the creative potential of children, the Dutch-Luxembourgish national hopes to understand more aspects of how our cultural circumstances can influence our capacity for creative thinking.
July 5, 2021
Nobody is untouched by environmental chemical pollution, but most are unaware of how they are exposed, what to, and the possible health consequences. With over 350,000 registered chemicals in use, an important first step towards assessing their environmental impacts is to make chemical information more machine-readable and open. Environmental Cheminformatics is on the case.
November 9, 2020
While machine learning and deep learning have come a long way, they are not yet at a stage where autonomous vehicles can handle unexpected situations. As part of a public research-industry collaboration, early career researcher Steve Dias Da Cruz investigates possibilities to reduce the amount of data needed to train reliable deep learning models for safety critical applications in the automotive industry.
August 23, 2022
Is it possible to use mathematical indicators to alert about natural disasters and help in the early detection of disease and health issues? Over the past 15 years, scientists have been working on bridging mathematical theory and empirical evidence to do just that. To move the science forward, a key challenge is the underlying mathematical problem, as well as determining how the indicators should be applied.
June 29, 2017
Charles de Bourcy decided to become a researcher on human health when he realised the human body is not invincible. After completing his undergraduate studies at University of Oxford, the Luxembourg national secured one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world and embarked on a PhD at Stanford University. Now in the final year of this PhD in Applied Physics, Charles is taking his first steps towards his goal of building technologies to help ease the burden of global disease.
April 13, 2017
“Would matter be perfect, it would be boring” says Guillaume Nataf, who has an oozing passion for physics and teaching fundamental science. The French national did his PhD in the group of FNR PEARL Chair Jens Kreisel at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), in collaboration with the French Atomic Commission (CEA). We spoke to Guillaume, who has just started a Postdoc at the University of Cambridge, about life as a researcher.
Spotlight on Young Researchers: The historical relationship between the European Community and the Soviet Union
March 16, 2022
As war rages in Ukraine, the topic PhD candidate Claude Ewert has been researching for the past three years is perhaps more relevant now than ever: the relationship between the European Community and the Soviet Union. The historian is gathering valuable information on the EC’s early foreign policy and the obstacles that had to be overcome to try to make the Community speak with one voice.