WRITTEN BY: Matt Busekroos

Prior to his CSAIL arrival, Sam DeLaughter studied at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. His concentration was at the intersection of computer science and music. DeLaughter built tools to make the production and performance of digital music a more real-time and interactive process during his time there.  However, he said the most essential things he learned at Hampshire were “soft skills,” such as critical thinking, time management, and communication, which he mentioned have been invaluable resources in conducting and presenting research at MIT. 

At CSAIL, DeLaughter works with Dr. Karen Sollins and the Advanced Network Architecture Group. He said Sollins is the best mentor he’s had the pleasure to work with. 

“She is endlessly supportive, of both my academic pursuits and my personal well-being,” DeLaughter said. “She always makes ample time to meet with me and other students in the group, and has a knack for asking excellent questions that spark interesting conversations. The ANA group as a whole is fairly small, which has allowed me to develop great relationships with the other members. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Internet architecture, measurement, and policy from chatting with them.” 

DeLaughter’s current research is primarily focused on measuring and mitigating Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.  In particular, he’s interested in ways they might redesign network protocols to shape attacker behavior, and to reduce the vulnerability of critical resources on servers and in the network. DeLaughter is currently working on new ways of using proof-of-work to rate-limit malicious devices without significantly impacting legitimate ones. 

DeLaughter said he hopes his research will improve the availability of Internet services by making it more difficult for attackers to launch effective DoS attacks. 

“I see the Internet as one of humanity’s greatest assets, facilitating the open exchange of knowledge and information across the world at unprecedented speed and scale,” DeLaughter said. “There have certainly been negative side-effects from this (e.g. disinformation), but I still firmly believe the benefits outweigh the costs.” 

DeLaughter isn’t entirely sure of his next step after completing his PhD at CSAIL.  

“I’ve had the opportunity to intern at a diverse set of institutions during my PhD — in industry, government, and academia — and thoroughly enjoyed them all,” DeLaughter said. “I think I’ll be happy just about anywhere there are challenging research problems to solve and curious people to work on them with.” 

You can find more information on DeLaughter’s work and research on his personal website samd.is, which links to his GitHub, a list of publications and information on a few of his side projects.