Nik photo 

Nik Sultana, PhD

Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Illinois Institute of Technology

Contact: nsultana1 at(symbol) iit dot edu  CV

I'm interested in building better (performance + flexibility + security) distributed systems, and I develop techniques for this using programming theory, formal logic, and systems engineering.

Bio: Before joining Illinois Tech I was a postdoc at the UPenn Distributed Systems Lab and at the Cambridge Systems Research Group where I worked on various research projects on computer systems. Up to my PhD I did theoretical research. For my PhD I developed a compiler-based approach to proof translation, and before that I worked on constructive proof search and the verification of refactorings using interactive theorem-proving. I did my undergrad at the University of Malta.

Research Opportunities

If you're an Illinois Tech student, check out my page on BS/MS student projects related to my research.
Regardless of whether you're currently an Illinois Tech student, you can find out more about funded PhD opportunities related to my research. You can find out more about my research by browsing this homepage.

Survey on packet filtering

If you use or develop packet filters then please complete this survey. The survey's goal is to poll the current usage of, and problems with, traffic filtering and packet monitoring tools. The results will help guide new academic research and will be shared with the research community.


Feel free to reach out to me about the following resources which I created and curate:


  • October 2022. Paper accepted at the EuroP4 workshop -- congrats to Shivam and our collaborators!
  • October 2022. Released code and examples from the Pitchfork project.
  • October 2022. Giving short talk at OCP FTS, and a demo at ICNP 2022.
  • September 2022. Paper on PERA accepted at HotNets, and paper on Pitchfork accepted at ACSAC!
  • August 2022. Updated the pages on student projects for Fall 2022 and PhD funding, and added a new page about misc resources.
  • April 2022. Huge congrats to three students I worked with: Heena started a PhD at UPenn, Henry is starting a PhD at UIUC, and Junyong is starting a PhD at University of Arizona.
  • April 2022. Honored to be a recipient of this year's Google Research Scholar program.
  • March 2022. Congrats to Cyprien, Luis, Neil, Xue, Mohamad, Mohammad, Rigden, and Shivam for participating in the College of Computing poster event, and Cyprien for winning an award!
  • January 2022. Gave talk on Research and Teaching Resources for Programmable Networking at the ITU Focus Group on Autonomous Networks.

Research interests

Distributed systems, Programmable networking, Security (software and network), Automated reasoning, Formal methods.

Acknowledgement for research funding/support: DARPA, Google, RES-MATCH, URA, XUP.
I'm also very grateful to the FABRIC and Chameleon testbeds for enabling some of my group's work.



At Illinois Tech I'm currently working with:
  • (Undergrad) Hyunsuk Bang
  • (MS) Sean Cummings
  • (Undergrad) Aditi Kumar
  • (Undergrad) Marelle León
  • (MS) Mohammad Firas Sada
  • (RSE) Nishanth Shyamkumar
  • (RES-MATCH, MS) Prajwal Somendyapanahalli Venkateshmurthy
  • (Undergrad) Willow Carlson-Huber

See my page on funded opportunities for a PhD in Computer Science related to my research.

If you're already at Illinois Tech, I'm happy to discuss undergrad (CS49{1,7}) and MS (CS59{1,7}) projects. Also see my current list of student projects.

Previously at Illinois Tech I worked with Neil Dhote, Xue Zhang, Rigden Atsatsang, Mohamad Dib Fares, Luis Casarrubios Elez, Cyprien Gueyraud, Simrat Kaur, Irina Klein, Shivam Patel, H. E. Greenblatt, and Alexander Wolosewicz.

Earlier, at the University of Pennsylvania I worked with the following Research Assistants: Achala Rao, Zihao Jin (visiting from Tsinghua University), Anirudh Chelluri, Nishanth Prabhu, Shilpi Bose, Henry Zhu, Ke Zhong (visiting from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, now a PhD student at Penn), Zhaoyang Han, Ruijie Mao, Digvijaysinh Chauhan, Nishanth Shyamkumar, Shivani Burad, Zhilei Zheng, Garvit Khandelwal, Ritvik Sadana, Rakesh Nagda, Heena Nagda (from Georgia Tech), Stephen Carrasquillo, Junyong Zhao, Saket, Andrew Zhao, and Aishwarya Wesanekar.

And before that at the University of Cambridge I supervised Jonny Shipton's 2016 UROP (research internship) and the "Part II" (undergrad dissertation) projects of Thomas Le Feuvre, Radu Voroneanu (co-supervised with Lucas Dixon), Daniel Spencer (co-supervised with Richard Mortier), and Rupert Horlick (co-supervised with Richard Mortier).

Projects & System Releases

Pitchfork (2022, on GitLab)
Decomposition of C programs for privilege separation.

Flightplan (2020, on GitHub)
Decomposition & heterogeneous allocation of P4 programs to benefit SDN.

Emu (2017, on GitHub)
New standard library for creating high-performance network functions using HLS.

Flowdar (2019, on GitLab)
Understanding the flow of control, data, and resource-usage of software.

Pax (2016, on GitHub) and projects that build on top of it: TCPuny and Recap.
Abstractions for packet-processors written in high-level & managed languages.

DoSarray (2018, on GitHub)
Carrying out experiments involving Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks and mitigations.

Motto (2016, on GitHub)
Compiler and reference runtime for the Flick system for application-level services.

Smaller systems:
  • Apache httpd Worker Union MPM (2019, GitLab)
  • TYM Datalog (2019, GitHub)
  • Caper (2019, GitLab)

Most of my work is released as open source. For other projects see my GitHub and GitLab.


These are indexed at DBLP and Google Scholar.

Recent work:

Videos (Demos/Talks)

HotNets'22 presentation
PERA Paper (talk @ HotNets'22)
Flightplan video
PERA Slides (talk @ HotSoS'23)
FDP video
Pitchfork Slides (talk @ HotSoS'23)
LATTE'21 presentation
Position paper (talk @ LATTE'21)
Flightplan video
Flightplan (talk @ NSDI'21)
FDP video

Wharf (talk @ NetCompute'18)

Flightplan (talk @ ONF'18)

Emu (talk @ BCS AIPG seminar, 2017)