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Endless possibilities’ to do good with research

July 13, 2022

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Kulm earns DSU’s 2nd provisional patent in 2 years

Dr. Arica Kulm sees “endless possibilities” for students at Dakota State. This may even include the opportunity to create patentable research on new technologies, as Kulm has done.

Her dissertation research has resulted in a provisional patent on a unique model of a digital forensics tool; it is currently being developed into a prototype.

This began in 2019, when Kulm started researching the technology behind the dark web as an assignment from her major professor, Dr. Ashley Podhradsky. Although part of the World Wide Web, the dark web is only accessible through special software and specific networks which allow users to remain anonymous through encryption.

Kulm had heard of the dark web but wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Her initial research indicated that there was no trace of a user or their activity left in the system. “How can that be? Is that really possible?” she wondered, and she decided to study one aspect of the Dark web for her doctoral work.

There was not a lot of professional literature on this topic, so research involved quite a bit of reading, as well as testing. Her efforts resulted in creating a model tool to help law enforcement identify the different digital artifacts that can be found in the Dark web.  

This fits in perfectly with her current position as Director of DigForCE, the Digital Forensics for Cyber Enforcement lab at Madison Cyber Labs.

While Kulm maintains that “I’m not unique in any way,” Podhradsky is impressed by this accomplishment, because by operationalizing Kulm’s unique model, it becomes a stand-alone tool or one that will integrate with others. “This is novel and needed by law enforcement and for research,” Podhradsky said. And because it would be a monetized version, that will add validity to the evidence it provides.  

Kulm admits that she would not have pursued a patent on her own. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” she said, so appreciates the resources on campus through the Department of Economic Development, and the department’s Director Katherine Cota.

“It is good to have that resource on campus,” Kulm said. “It’s one less thing to worry about when you get to that end goal.” 

This example, and the resources provided by the university, demonstrate the “endless possibilities” for students at Dakota State researching or developing new technologies.

This is the second provisional patent for the university in two years. Dr. Justin Blessinger was granted a provisional patent in 2021 for an assistive technology device.

“Any new technology that comes out is fascinating to me,” said Kulm, yet she knows that while there may be good intentions behind the technology, people can find ways to use it for bad purposes.

“But there are such bright students here at DSU researching these technologies, and they’re here to do good,” she said. “It’s exciting to see what these students are working on.”

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