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Your Opportunities are Limitless: Message from a 2024 Cyber Graduate

If Sneha Talwalkar could leave behind one piece of advice to the next generation of Georgia Tech graduate students, it would be to treat their master’s program like an extended professional development opportunity because that is exactly what it is. 

Fortunately for future students, she is not leaving behind just one piece of advice. Her time in the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech exposed Talwalkar to resources she thinks all students should take advantage of.

Volunteering, mentoring, resume reviews, paper reviews, guest lectures, and talk series like So You Want to be a Professor, and using the Communication Center in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons are all on Talwalkar’s list of resources students should use while in their master’s program. One of the most important to her, however, is how students should approach their master’s capstone course and project. 

“It needs to be on the front of your mind before the first day of class even starts,” she said. “Three to four months is just not enough to build a good project and professional relationships- an outcome that both students and the institute can benefit from.”

The opportunities for students are limitless. Talwalkar has witnessed partnerships with industry while working on her own projects. This is especially beneficial for international students as collaborations with nonprofits, government, and industry can increase their employment options after graduating from a professional master’s course.

“Partnerships can help you have a plan ready while also helping the institute to build a pipeline of projects outside academia through your work,” she said. “Reach out to alumni with the help of GTConnect and other platforms to start working on problems that interest you.”  

Talwalkar has spent her time outside of the classroom connecting with faculty to learn as much as she can from them. She will be leaving Georgia Tech with a list of mentors from different areas of expertise, including:

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Sneha Talwalkar (left) and Courtney Crooks collaborated on a software project to aid survivors of domestic abuse. Photo by Terence Rushin/College of Computing. Main article image by Kevin Beasley/ College of Computing
  • Courtney Crooks, principal research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute who specializes in the field of cyberpsychology. 
  • Professor Peter Swire, J.Z. Liang Chair at SCP, and data privacy expert
  • Sashank Varma, professor in the School of Interactive Computing and School of Psychology, a cognitive scientist and human/machine-learning course instructor
  • Ling Liu, professor in the School of Computer Science and director of research programs for the Distributed Data Intensive Systems Lab

“Innovation and research are not possible if we stick to our own departments and our group of students or friends,” she said. “Explore different classes and research projects outside of your own coursework and then try to draw the line backward to see how you can weave your own story.” 

Talwalkar has also taken on two mentees of her own. The first is a master’s student in the School of Computational Science and Engineering, Tara (Tingyu) Liu, and the second is Betta Lyon Delsordo, enrolled in the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity

“I am privileged and proud to be carrying Georgia Tech’s heritage with me,” she said. 

Her time in the cybersecurity master’s program ignited a passion for research and education. Once Talwalkar is done with her final class, she will be moving to Canada to begin her Ph.D. in Information at the University of Toronto. Her son will begin pre-kindergarten around the same time.

“We both get to have a first day of school this September!” she said. “I hope my story inspires women with school-age kids to pursue a graduate program."