“I do some vulnerability research, looking for new ways to exploit software.”
Lucca Fraser sees beauty in writing computer code.
“It’s so enjoyable writing code that actually work and then see them come alive and do the things you want,” she says.
Lucca’s work as a Senior Research Engineer for Tenable Network Security, a cybersecurity firm, seems radically different from her training as a philosopher.
“I do some vulnerability research, looking for new ways to exploit software. This is for defensive reasons, so that we can develop advisories for the vendors so they can develop patches. I also write code that analyzes code so we can find problems with it. I write tools that help us do that. It takes a lot of creativity.”
But as different as it is, philosophy has given her the skills that make her so good at what she does. That training began at King’s.
The Contemporary Studies Program (CSP) is where I learned to be a philosopher,” she says. “It’s where I learned the skills I value so highly today—like attentive and close reading, an instinct to look for leaky abstractions, a sense for where the blind spots are in certain conceptual systems. These are invaluable skills for any intellectual field of work, whether you are a political strategist, a lawyer, a biologist or a computer scientist. CSP is good for training general thinking. The aim of each class is to teach the skills of critique, analysis and synthesis.”
Lucca uses all those skills in the world she lives in now—the world of code and security, of hackers and evolutionary computation. It is not the world she had imagined for herself.
After King’s she earned her MA in Philosophy at Brock University, then her PhD at the University of Guelph. She did research into logic, epistemology, feminism and the history and philosophy of science. Finally, out of academia Lucca became an independent researcher.
“That’s how academics say ‘unemployed,’” she says with a laugh.
With a growing family to support, Lucca looked for the next step in her journey.
“I used to really enjoy programming as a kid and thought I might like to try that again. So, I started tinkering around with that and found that I loved it.
I applied for a Master’s program in Computer Science at Dalhousie and while I was there, I was offered a job at Tenable.”
She loves the work. But Lucca has another abiding passion.
“In the little free time I have I am working with a consultancy and research start-up called Special Circumstances. It’s made up of philosophers, computer scientists and media theorists. A bunch of us just got together and thought—we know a lot of really smart people doing really interesting things who don’t have the resources to pursue these projects. And so, we put Special Circumstances together. It is a way for us to pursue interesting research and projects.”
Special Circumstances is just getting going. As it grows Lucca hopes to pursue that other passion.
She says, “It will be great to have time for pure research.”