Carnegie Mellon University
March 30, 2021

Research Duo: Meet Pranay and John

By Jessica Shirley

John Johnson and Pranay Garg just get each other.

After meeting at orientation and finding themselves in nearly all the same courses, the duo quickly discovered they made a great team. Now, they are working together on an independent study focused on Google Chrome’s JavaScript engine (V8).

“We are trying to put together a guide for security researchers, and hopefully add discoveries of our own,” said John. They chose the problem statement after discovering the complexity of web browsers in courses like Secure Software Systems.

“It’s the essence of graduate school, connecting with mates who agree to work on just the most insane ideas, which lead to research experiences” added Pranay.

Beyond contributing to the field as researchers, the two are also sharing their expertise through picoCTF, Carnegie Mellon’s Capture-the-Flag game. As problem development lead, John is working to ensure young people can use CTFs to expand their cybersecurity skill set, like he did in high school.

“When I started playing CTFs, I felt like I didn’t know anything. picoCTF was an opportunity to build my confidence and push me in the right direction when I got stuck," said John. "I realized that with enough practice, and Googling, that every problem is worth attempting because you always learn something new.” Worthwhile advice for any problem!


Pranay Garg

Dream career

"I want to help make the world safer for everyone, do my bit. I love understanding how complex systems work at a low level - the INI’s MSIS program is perfect for me.

MSIS course requirements exactly aligned with my interests and provides for ample research opportunity. To top it all off, I loved INI’s Introduction to Information Security course and now I get to TA for it and help improve it even further. This also aligns with my intention to enter academia sometime in future!"

INI Highlights

"I really love the time I spent in lectures, sitting in the front row during 14-513 Introduction to Computer Systems, 14-741 Introduction to Information Security and 14-819 Introduction to Software Reverse Engineering. Talking and moving with brilliant minds around me, inspiring me to just do more."

"The conversations we have had after and during those lectures paved the way to my current independent study and a gang with whom I feel so much at home while being so far way."


John Johnson

Dream career

"I am currently an officer in the US Air Force, and I am looking forward to finding out my next assignment. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend CMU and I hope that I can repay that by having more knowledge and experience to carry out whatever my next job may be." 

"I think the INI is the best place in the world to teach the skills that will be useful for me in that position."

INI Highlights

"I really enjoyed 14-513 because I liked how it pushed me to really understand the lowest levels of a computer system. I loved how the assignments were essentially a bunch of challenges, probably because it reminded me a lot of CTFs."

– INI Magazine Table of Contents –