UCL Computer Science


Systems and Networks Research Group

The Systems and Networks Research Group at UCL is a global leader in the design, building, and analysis of networked computer systems.

A close up of code on a computer screen in blue and yellow


UCL became the first site outside the US connected to the ARPAnet (the precursor to the Internet) in 1973. Since then, the Systems and Networks Research Group at UCL has been a global leader in the design, building, and analysis of networked computer systems.

The group stands out among high-profile networking research groups for its success spanning research and practice: we disseminate high-impact scientific results in leading publication venues, and we engage closely with the IETF standards body to ensure that these innovations find wide use in the Internet.

We regularly place our PhD graduates in positions in the world's elite computer science research institutions, both in academia and industry.


Path choice and Internet architecture - In 1988 the Internet was saved from congestion collapse by Van Jacobson: he devised an algorithm by which users' machines could reduce their transmission rate when they detect that the network is overloaded. What if users were given a choice of paths, and they were given incentives to take the less congested path? In other words, what if we think of routing as another way that end systems can control congestion? Researchers: Mark Handley

The problem with layering - Networking research has tended to split into three parts: engineers who deal with channel coding and physical hardware, network researchers who build algorithms for controlling network access and congestion and routing, and application programmers who treat the Internet as a black box that 'just works'. We are working on designs for networks which take fuller account of the underlying hardware, with particular emphasis on wireless. Researchers: Kyle Jamieson and Brad Karp

Building secure systems with unreliable parts - The most insecure parts of a computer system are the programmer and the operator. We aim to find clean design principles and to provide software toolkits so that programmers can more easily reason about security for complex computer systems. Researchers: Brad Karp and Mark Handley

The Internet as a machine for calculating how to share resources - Millions of devices use the Internet, all of them sensing congestion and backing off when they detect overload, and no one device can see more than a tiny fraction of the links and routers in the Internet. We are developing mathematical techniques for analysing the behaviour of such networks, with emphasis on queueing theory and fluid models. Researcher: Damon Wischik
Network Structure - Structure fundamentally affects function. We characterise network structures, study the relationship between structures and critical properties such as network resilience, efficiency and security, and model the evolution of networks.  Researchers: Shi Zhou

Deployment projects - The ancient Silk Road was not only a trade route but also an all-important road for the transfer of information and knowledge between major regions of the world. UCL is part of a consortium that is bringing cost-effective global Internet connectivity to Afghanistan, the Caucasus and Central Asia, through satellite and fibre technology. This is one of several large-scale deployment projects at UCL. Researcher: Peter Kirstein


The Systems and Networks Research Group is heavily involved in teaching the MSc in Networked Computer Systems, a one-year full-time masters programme aimed at highly-achieving graduates who already have a background in computer science and who wish to specialize in the area of networks and distributed systems. Many of our PhD students have come through this MSc. One component of the course is a substantial project, so it is an excellent way to decide for yourself if you want to pursue a career in networking research. The courses we teach are

  • Operating systems (Mark Handley)
  • Multimedia systems (Mark Handley)
  • Networked systems (Brad Karp, Kyle Jamieson)
  • Distributed systems and security (Brad Karp)
  • Mobile and adaptive systems (Brad Karp, Kyle Jamieson, Steve Hailes)
  • Network and application programming (Steve Hailes)


The Systems and Networks Research Group invites applications for the PhD programme from computer science graduates with the ambition to shape the future of networked computer systems. Admission is highly competitive. We take on roughly four or five PhD students each year.

How to apply 
If you want to apply for a PhD, you should first read through the research interests of the faculty, and contact the researcher whose interests match yours. Don't expect much response from a general query; you are much more likely to impress if you show that you have read about our interests and thought about a research topic. The next step is for you to follow the standard UCL application procedure.

There are various schemes to make funding available for highly talented and motivated students, regardless of their country of origin.
UCL operates a scheme of Overseas Research Scholarships and awards approximately 40 each year. You must have made a formal application to the PhD program before you can apply for an ORS.

UK students, and EU students who completed their degree at a UK university are usually eligible to apply for funding (both tuition fees and maintenance) through a Doctoral Training Centre. EU students who completed their degree outside the UK are usually eligible to apply (though for tuition fees only, not maintenance). The relevant centres for the networks research group are PhotonicsSecurity, and Financial Computing

Funding may be available for PhD students for a specific project, if that project has already been awarded research funding. The relevant faculty member can tell you of any opportunities.


To view our academics' papers, please visit our IRIS pages in the 'People' section.