UIUC has one of the top computer science programs around the world. You can find more information about the CS department. CS Rankings is another useful website to search for active faculty members in different research areas in computer science.
I am always looking for passionate, hard-working students to join my research group. Among other things, I think self-motivation is very important. As a PhD student, you are expected to lead one or more projects (e.g., after 1-2 years) and proactively drive the research agenda. I also like students who are energetic and curious, which are critical qualities to identify interesting research problems and find new solutions. Regarding technical skills, I expect students to be competent programmers. In addition, my research area involves extensive data analytics. I expect students to have basic knowledge of statistcs.
The best thing to do is to read several of my recent papers, and then write me a brief email (with your CV attached) explaining: 1) which papers you like and why, and 2) what research problems you are interested in. Please understand that I receive a lot of unsolicited emails from prospective students, so I may not be able to respond to all inquiries.
My primary research area is security and privacy in the web and mobile systems. I am also interested in data mining and machine learning. If you are not interested in any of those areas, then I am not the right advisor for you. If you haven't been admitted to UIUC, I suggest you going through the application process first. You can mention my name in your application so that I can easily find your case.
Important Note: for international students, please be sure to take the TOEFL test before applying to the PhD program (speaking >= 24). Please note that the TOEFL score is needed even for international students who did their undergraduate/MS studies in the US as long as you need financial aid (TA/RA). This basically applies to all PhD students. The detailed explanation is here (pay attentoion to the Financial Aid Consideration section).
Absolutely! I always enjoy working with masters/Undergraduate students who are interested in doing research. If you are already enrolled in UIUC, the best way of action is to take my class. Students who excel in class and actively participate have the best chance to join my lab to work on real research projects.