SU Senior Carter Yagemann’s Summer of Android

Originally written for the Syracuse University College of Engineering blog.

This summer, Carter Yagemann, a rising senior in the Computer Science program from Jupiter, Florida, spent his summer crawling the Android operating system as part of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Carter investigated Android security using “an intent firewall” to protect user’s information on smartphones and tablets. We caught up with him following his final presentation of his research to a room of faculty and students at Syracuse University.

How did you learn about the REU program?

I was actually a student in one of Professor Du‘s classes and I had been doing internships in the private sector. I started as a web developer for Frontier Communications and then I worked for JPMorgan Chase in some of their security areas. I wanted to gain as much exposure as I could, so I was interested in getting into research. I approached Professor Du and he gave me an offer to do research under him.

What has this experience been like?

It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been nice to pursue what I’m interested in. There’s a lot less red tape and hurdles when you’re doing research versus in the private sector where there is a lot of regulation and accountability. It was really fun, really educational. I get to be with my peers, people more my age. I can mostly do what I want.

One of the things that is very different with research is that it’s very open ended. You don’t really know what’s going to get traction and what’s going to turn out to be impossible. It’s very free flowing and very flexible. The professors give you some ideas of where to start and you go from there to see if it works or not.

Professor Du was definitely interested in the intent firewall, but most of my research is my own work. I made all of the documentation and the website. I’m the one who crawled all the source code. He was the one who gave me the idea and I took off with it.

Why did you choose to come to Syracuse University?

I was choosing between here and Drexel University and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in a big city like Philadelphia. I picked Syracuse because there’s a nice atmosphere here. It’s a condensed campus, and there’s a lot going on. It’s a nice place to be.

What else are you involved in at SU?

I like everything about programming, so I do some hack-a-thons at the Student Sandbox at the Tech Garden in Downtown Syracuse. I have a few friends from the iSchool who often get together to do little things. Freshman year we created a platform called BeerText. The idea was you could text the name of a beer to a certain number and it would send you back a text with a description of the beer. It was really cool. It went viral on Twitter and Reddit. We got 35,000 users in 48 hours.

What do you plan to do with your degree in Computer Science after you graduate?

I definitely want to continue to pursue cybersecurity. Right now I am looking in multiple places. I’m looking at what’s going on out in Silicon Valley and what’s going on with the government.

I am also interested in being an entrepreneur. I have started writing some applications and I have pushed some out to the Google Play Store. I’m kind of a one-man app dev company. I’m definitely interested in getting out there on my own or with friends and talented people. On the other hand, large companies tend to have the resources to be able to do some pretty interesting things.

I just want to go where the interesting work is – something I haven’t seen before. I’m really open. Part of the point of this research was to try to find where I’m happiest.

About the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science REU

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science hosted its annual Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program this summer. It culminated with a half-day of presentations in July in which seven REU students from four different universities, including SU, Cornell, SUNY Fredonia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain, completed research on a range of topics. The predominant theme was the development and security of the Android operating system.

Over the course of the summer, students worked with an advisor to select a topic that interested them and advanced the College’s research, then immersed themselves in their chosen subjects. The experience is educational for the students and the advisors alike.

“There are expectations that we are researching and getting something out of this experience. The first thing we are asked is what we want to work on, then our advisor helps us develop research questions from that,” describes Jonathan Secora, a computer science major at SU who focused on animations on the Android platform this summer.

Kevin Du, Professor of Computer Science, advised the students that focused on Android devices including:

  • Gabrielle George, “A Drinking the From the Fire Hydrant Approach to Learning Computer Science”
  • Jonathan Secora, “Animation and Application in Android”
  • Curtis Robinson, “A Short Survey of Android”
  • Jason Davison, “Communication Problems with the Android System”
  • Carter Yagemann, “Intent Firewall – Android Security via Intent Filtering”
  • Fred Schlereth, Associate Research Professor of Electrical Engineering, advised Tom McLeod as he examined, “Trapping of Molecules Inside Non-Ideal Nanoscale Channels.”

Current Computer Science Ph. D student, Paul Rattazi, advised Wesley Brooks at AFRL on “Self-Protecting Apps: Helping Developers Protect Your Sensitive Data.”