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Alabama State University receives $300,000 diversity-focused cyber security grant



Alabama State University has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the office of Naval Research that is intended to help better secure our nation's computer and data center's cyber security and help increase diversity among the students and employees involved in this increasingly critical career field.


The grant, titled "Increasing the Diversity in Cyber Security Through Undergraduate Research Experiences," will be administered by three ASU faculty members: lead coordinator, Dr. Rajendran Swamidurai, a professor and coordinator of the University's Computer Science program; Dr. Uma Kannan, assistant professor of Computer Science; and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew P. Hunter, professor of Aerospace Studies and commander of ASU’s Air Force-ROTC Detachment 019.


"The objectives of this project are to expose highly qualified Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) underrepresented minority students to advanced topics in cyber security through undergraduate research in state-of-the-art methodologies, the use of cyber security tools through active learning, with an end goal of obtaining professional certificates, higher academic studies, and or careers in cyber security," Swamidurai said.


He explained that the project is a collaborative effort between ASU's Computer Science and ROTC departments working together.


"Our overall goal in this program is to encourage students to learn by discovery as opposed to passive listening. This will be accomplished by employing non-traditional forms of active learning such as cooperative learning, simulation-based research and experimentation. We are having $150,000 of the overall grant money earmarked for student support, so we may utilize 10 of ASU's undergraduate students and two of its graduate students to initiate cyber security undergraduate research in our department," Swamidurai stated.


The length of the grant is from July 2021 - June 2022 with an option for extension.


CYBER-ATTACKS ARE A MAJOR THREAT


Cyber-attacks, ranging from identity theft to threats against lives and the data and operation of important national infrastructure, are a current and ongoing danger to the nation and its residents. Both industry and governmental entities are facing greater challenges to hire qualified personnel to help secure data interests against terrorists and hostile governments.


One of the challenges faced in addressing cyber workforce issues is the tremendous shortage of graduates to work in the cyber field. The purpose of this grant is to increase both the number of cyber security graduates while also ensuring the growth of minority students in the field.


WHAT ASU STUDENTS WILL LEARN UNDER THIS GRANT


"Our students will engineer the cyber security product with our processes, walking students through producing a working solution by having them use an agile process called Collaborative-Adversarial Pair (CAP) programming that I developed specifically to apply cutting-edge industry techniques at each point in the software lifecycle," Swamidurai explained.


He stated that rather than simply coding the cyber security research projects in the traditional manner, students will actually engineer the cyber security product.


GREAT TEACHING TOOL


Swamidurai said that this grant will enable the University to enrich its students academically in several ways.


"This will allow us to have a methodology to train students in cyber security while measuring the effectiveness of using known industry practices in the classroom; developing new cyber security project modules, and attracting and retaining students by offering them the ability to obtain skills and education in cutting-edge cyber security practises," Swamidurai stated.


PLANS TO ESTABLISH AN ASU CYBER SECURITY LAB & RESEARCH CENTER


He added that with the support of both this naval grant and Dr. Kannan’s earlier obtained National Science Foundation cyber security grant, plans are in the works to establish a cyber security lab and research center at Alabama State University with 80 computers and additional equipment.


"This research facility will be one of the largest in the Montgomery area and will be available for all ASU students, faculty and other stakeholders to conduct advanced cyber security research and training programs," Swamidurai said.


This article is republished with permission from Alabama State University.


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