David A. Wheeler’s formal education timeline
The timing of my formal college education can be a little confusing,
and some public information seems contradictory.
Here, I will try to set the record straight.
One general complication is that at George Mason University (GMU),
if you complete the degree requirements in December, it takes time for them
to confirm this, so the degree is not formally granted until January
in the following year.
As a result, there are two validly-different years that can be cited
for all my degrees.
Even more confusingly, GMU only had ceremonies at the end of the Spring
semester at this time.
That means that, for all my degrees, I completed the work in one year,
offically received the degree in January the next year,
and had a ceremony in the May timeframe.
My PhD process was a little unusual, and I unintentionally gave
wrong dates when asked about them during my PhD public defense
(I swapped ending dates and starting dates).
That added even more confusion to a confusing situation, sorry.
So, here are some key dates in my formal education:
- 1983, Fall: Began college at George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, VA.
I first started in Computer Science, but was bored (I already knew a lot of
it) so I switched to Electronics Engineering.
- 1987, December: Completed requirements for a
BS in Electronics Engineering (EE).
Since those who complete requirements in December at GMU don’t
actually receive the degree until the following month, my BS in EE
was not formally granted until January 16, 1988.
I graduated with distinction.
- 1989, Fall: I began my pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science program
- 1993, December: Completed the requirements for an
MS in Computer Science (CS) from GMU, as well as a
Certificate for Software Systems Engineering, GMU.
My MS in CS was formally granted on January 15, 1994.
- 1994, Summer: Attended the class
“Design and Analysis of Distributed Protocols”, Summer Session,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
- 1995, Fall: I began pursuing a PhD at GMU.
- 1999, December: Completed the requirements for the
Certificate for Information System Security at GMU.
This certificate was formally granted on January 15, 2000.
At this point I had I completed the coursework requirements for my PhD.
I do not have the dates recorded, but I believe that soon after this I
successfully completed my oral and written exams.
After that, I began sending proposals to my PhD committee;
they repeatedly asked for more information, which made things complicated.
(This made sense; I was proposing to solve a problem that many people
thought was unsolveable. The good news, for me, is that I was right.)
- 2005: I wrote, and ACSAC published, my paper
"Countering Trusting Trust through Diverse Double-Compiling (DDC)"
(this summarized my work to that point).
My paper was one of the few papers ACSAC accepted
(ACSAC rejected 77% of their submitted papers that year), so
merely getting accepted for publication was an honor.
I submitted the paper on 2005-05-27, later submitting
a revised version (based on their peer review) on 2005-09-22.
It was published as part of the ACSAC proceedings of December 5-9, 2005.
Bruce Schneier's January 23, 2006 edition of his Crypto-Gram Newsletter
covered the ACSAC paper and was very positive.
- 2007-04-27: Proposal presentation and admission to (PhD) candidacy.
- 2008-12-31, 10pm: Successfully applied DDC to gcc's C compiler.
- 2009-10-26: Doctoral Research Presentation (to my committee) and
Doctoral Supervisory Committee approval for (public) defense.
- 2009-11-09: Formal submission of draft PhD dissertation for public review.
- 2009-11-23: Public defense of PhD dissertation.
- 2009-11-30: Final version of the dissertation (with tweaks)
submitted GMU's Fenwick library.
- 2009-12-02: Completed the requirements for a PhD in Information Technology;
this is when I got all required approval signatures.
So I finished the PhD more than 14 years after I started, but to be fair,
I was also working full-time and tackling a problem that had generally been
- 2010-01-09: PhD in Information Technology
formally granted to me.
- 2010-05-15: Participated
in the official 2010 GMU commencement.
Technically it took about 14 and a half years to get my PhD
(Fall of 1995 through January 2010).
That is certainly not the longest, for example, a
Peter Miller took 40 years to receive his
History of Consciousness Program Ph.D. from University of California
Santa Cruz (UCSC) (he entered 1971, and graduated 2011).
Feel free to see my home page at
My page on
the trusting trust attack may be of interest.
You may also want to look at my paper
Why OSS/FS? Look at
the Numbers! and my book on
how to develop
(C) Copyright 2012 David A. Wheeler.