WSU to lead cybersecurity education and research institute


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Washington State University has been selected as a recipient of a $1.5 million Department of Defense (DOD) grant to establish a new cybersecurity education and research program.

The Northwest Virtual Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research (CySER) program establishes a cyberoperations research and teaching center at WSU, one of the first three funded in the United States along with the University of Detroit Mercy and Mississippi State University. CySER includes a consortium of Pacific Northwest research partners from the University of Idaho (UI), Montana State University (MSU), Hispanic-serving Columbia Basin College (CBC), and Central Washington University (CWU).

The program will train ROTC and DOD-skilled civilian workers in computer science and other majors in cyber basics, operations, or defense, offering bachelor’s degrees as well as specialized certificates.

“This is an exciting opportunity and brings together for the first time major Northwest institutions, industry and national labs to develop concerted training with cyber-related courses, summer work-shops, field trips to national labs, summer internships, research, a seminar series, and service,” said Bernie Van Wie, professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering who is leading the effort.

Training modules will be delivered with enhanced teaching methods, including studio-based learning, teamwork, technical communication, and hands-on, problem-solving approaches. Undergraduates will be mentored by CySER PhD trainee cybersecurity researchers. Graduate master’s and PhD trainees will obtain advanced cyber operations certificates.

The research thrusts in CySER are centered around cyber education, networks and information security, cyber-physical systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence, software security and quality assurance.

“This new multi-institutional institute addresses the critically important challenge of cybersecurity as part of our national defense,” said Mary Rezac, dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. “We are so pleased to be helping to train our future leaders to be knowledgeable in this important field.”

The institute will be co-led by Profs. Assefaw Gebremedhin, Noel Schulz and Ananth Kalyana-raman of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Profs. Jim Alves-Foss and Terrence Soule at UI, Clem Izurieta at MSU, Matt Boehnke at CBC are serving as leads at their respective institutions, while Lt. Cols. Brian Balazs (WSU/UI), Michael Morris (CWU) and Lance Ratterman (MSU) and Maj. Paul Hyde (WSU/UI) are serving as ROTC leads. Professors from electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering and management information systems will also participate. Prof. Sola Adesope of the WSU Department of Kinesiology and Educational Psychology will lead the evaluation and educational research aspects of the project.

The program is funded through the DOD’s Air Force Military Command’s Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY) Virtual Cyber Institutes initiative.

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