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Frequently asked questions

Here are some answers to questions that have reached us over and over in the past months. If there’s anything left unanswered, just write us an Email at pr@cispa.saarland. So stop by sometimes, as this list will be expanded.  

Of Course. Our mission, in a nutshell, is this: We want to construct the digital world of the future from the ground up and make it safer through innovative, cutting-edge research. That’s it! But wait: To achieve this, it’s important that our center will keep growing, to more than 800 employees with no less than 60 faculty and research group leaders. Does that  sound interesting?

Honestly, it’s great. Sure, everyone is saying that about themselves. But really: at CISPA, you will work at a brilliant institution with some of the brightest minds in their respective research areas. These are people who want to see you succeed, to see you go far in your career. As for us, we want to climb to the top of cybersecurity-research-mountain. And sometimes it can also be quite wild and free. Think start-up culture. But that’s ok, it’s important to be creative.

Perhaps for you! Everyone who wants to take on this ambitious climb with us and is able to convince us that they can help us on this journey, is more than welcome. We are looking for Tenured Faculty and Tenure Track Faculty in all areas related to Cybersecurity, Privacy, Cryptography, and Machine Learning. And we always need PhD students, research assistants and student helpers. We are always looking for people who can make a difference in our administration as well.

Needless to say, your salary will depend on your position. Salary-wise, as a PhD student with a master’s degree, you could very well rent a nice apartment or even a house with a garden in the Saarland and still be able to provide for your significant other and/or children. For reference, in the middle of Munich, you might have to pay half your salary for a tiny apartment. Let’s not even talk about housing prices in the Silicon Valley. Luckily, the living expenses in the Saarland are quite okay and the quality of life is excellent.

Sure. Additionally to 12 month’s salaries, every employee gets roughly 6 weeks of paid time off.

Yes, that as well. Every employee at CISPA will get their own office, which they will typically be sharing with one or two colleagues from their area or team.

That, also, depends on your position. As PhD students, we expect you to do scientific work that will result in your PhD thesis. That’s it. That’s what makes CISPA different from universities. At university, you would also have work in teaching (tutoring students for example). Working at research centers such as Helmholtz or Max Planck, you usually have to teach very little, if at all. 

The situation for our faculty is also quite unique. Since we’re a center for foundational research, our leading scientists can decide what they see as elementary for the future for themselves. They receive extremely competitive institutional funding, can build and lead their team of young researchers, and are granted the opportunity to teach graduate and undergraduate courses.

German is not all that crucial for working at universities or research centers for computer science. At CISPA, English is virtually the default language for everything. In university cities such as Saarbrücken, there are tons of people whose English is good enough to communicate with you. In German schools, English is the main second language for students. And seeing as Germany is at the very heart of Europe, Germans are quite accustomed to foreign languages. Nevertheless, people will generally appreciate you taking the time to learn a little bit of the local language.

German universities generally offer good working conditions. The differences between the individual universities are not as big as in the USA, for example. Top research institutions like CISPA can easily compete with the best universities in the world. As a PhD student, you should remember that faculty are your supervisors and want to see you through to your doctorate, which gives them a lot of responsibility. Look at their performance as academics and mentors; they make the difference. 

There is no tuition! Yes, you heard that right, going to university in Germany is free for most courses. There is, however, a relatively small contribution fee, currently sitting at 288€. This fee is made up of a social contribution, administration costs, a contribution to the student body and the fare for public transportation, which you can use for free in the whole Saarland. But you don’t necessarily need to take a bus – Saarbrücken is really bicycle-friendly.

Universities generally grant professors “permanent funding” for PhD students and postdocs. In computer science and engineering, this funding generally includes up to four full-time-positions, as well as equipment, travel costs and the likes. At top research institutes like CISPA, this funding can even exceed the funding standards.

Some of you can stay at CISPA. However, most will move on and land top jobs, such as a permanent position at top universities and research institutions worldwide, for example Carnegie Mellon, Microsoft Research, IMDEA or INRA. Many join companies as cybersecurity experts or found their own companies.

Yes. Some of CISPA’s leading scientists teach for example in the award-winning course of study “Entrepeneurial Cybersecurity” at Saarland University. 

In this course, students found a company as part of their studies. Small groups develop a cybersecurity research idea, whose marketability they repeatedly defend before a jury. At the end of the course, students receive a master’s degree and start their own company. Not only are specialists trained here, but also the CEOs of tomorrow. Find out everything about it here.

Nope, we’re also involved in the bachelor’s course “Cybersecurity”. Students learn the basics of cybersecurity, followed by lectures and exercises in secure software engineering, cryptography and security. At the end of the semester, our teaching researchers are often awarded with the “Busy Beaver Award”, which rewards the best lectures as determined by the computer science students. We’re always especially proud of this one, as it shows that we’ve done a good job and students actually enjoyed our lectures.

Well, there’s German beer, and German bread. We probably don’t need to tell you about those. Just try it, you’ll see that their good reputation isn’t exaggerated. The Saarlandish fare is especially influenced by our close neighbor France. There is a large Italian community as well that has had an impact on our food culture. On top of that, there are Croatian, Indian, Thai, Japanese, regional and international experiences to be had – from traditional restaurants to the latest food trucks. The Saarlandish people sure love their food. And the best thing about it: the prices are entirely reasonable.

The majority of Germany lies in a temperate climate zone with four seasons, all of which are relatively mild (summers tend to get hotter and hotter though). So around here, it’s sometimes warm, sometimes cold, sometimes dry, sometimes wet. There’s snow and ice, thunderstorms and t-shirt weather. It’s best, you talk to the Saarländers about the weather, as it’s always a favorite topic around here.

The city forest of Saarbrücken directly lies behind the CISPA building. That’s convenient, for example for clearing your head with a nice run, so you can keep on doing awesome cybersecurity research. Nature tourism is a big thing in the Saarland. You shouldn’t miss the obligatory visit to the “Saarschleife” under any circumstances. But there’s plenty more to see, from parks to bathing lakes.

There’s lots to experience: The crazy traditions of the German carnival. Five different colors for garbage bins. Germans who will wait at a red pedestrian light, even though there’s no car in sight. And so much more. But the best thing about it: you won’t discover these things alone. You will do it together, with other talented people, here at CISPA, here in the Saarland. Saarländer are very welcoming people. Trust us, you’ll see.