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Undergrad research grant creates complete cyber education pipeline

Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

One more piece of the cyber education pipeline is now in place at Dakota State University.

Dakota State has had K-12 cyber outreach for over five years, through its CybHER program and popular GenCyber camps. Last fall, a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) added research traineeship opportunities for graduate students.

The university has now been awarded just over $357,000 by the NSF to provide Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REUs. The grant is for a three-year period beginning March 1, 2019 through Feb. 28, 2022.

Dr. Yong Wang“This fills in the undergraduate piece so now we have the whole pipeline,” said Dr. Yong Wang, associate research professor in The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences and the grant’s principal investigator (PI). “It perfectly shows our strengths.”

The students chosen for these 10-week, summer REUs will research a variety of issues involving the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT includes any devices connected to the internet, such as home routers, cable modems, smart locks.

“IoT devices are everywhere, in fact, most households have several,” said Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, co-PI and assistant dean of The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences. Because of their popularity, IoT device security “is an emerging topic and brings up important issues,” said Wang. Podhradsky explained that researchers will look at how IoT devices can be compromised and how those compromises are identified.

The REUs are open to all undergraduate students, Wang said, but will target some specific audiences, particularly students from institutions in states with no Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE). These would include schools in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. DSU has three such distinctions, and is a CAE regional resource center.

The grant proposal described that “there has been a missing link between cybersecurity research and cybersecurity education in the classroom,” due to a lack of research opportunities. This grant will help bridge that gap, the proposal states. The organizers also encourage women to apply for the REUs.

Applications will be accepted from now till April 7, and research will begin this summer, providing students with a stipend, room and meals, and travel support, Wang explained. There will be four or five teams with two to three students per team. They will be mentored by Wang, Podhradsky, Dr. Josh Stroschein, and Dr. Sulabh Bhattarai.

The students will also have opportunities for professional development through colloquiums and guest speakers, and will participate in the summer South Dakota EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Undergraduate Symposium.

For more information, contact Wang at yong.wang@dsu.edu.