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National grant to fund new cyber security research
Melissa Wylie / Senior Staff Writer
UNT has been designated as one of seven schools in the country to work with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security’s Information Assurance Research after receiving a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The grant will fund scholarships for graduate students studying cyber security within the Center for Information and Computer Security until 2017.
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security recognize the CICS as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.
Dr. Ramanamurthy Dantu, professor of computer science and director of the CICS, said the doctoral program in cyber security, beginning in the fall, is the first of its kind at UNT and is a new area of study and employment nationwide.
Under the heading of cyber security, Dantu said there are 16 specific topics including mobile security, network security and trust systems.
“The federal government is focused on all areas because there are so many agencies that are looking for people who have expertise in cyber security,” Dantu said. “There are not many graduates, especially Ph.D.s.”
Dantu said in the cyber security workforce, 33 percent have undergraduate degrees in the field, 77 percent have graduate degrees and one percent of the graduate degrees are Ph.D.s.
“The goal is that students will end up working for the federal government,” Dantu said. “The placement is guaranteed.”
Dr. Suliman Hawamdeh, professor and chairperson of library and information sciences, is working with Dantu to develop the new interdisciplinary program.
Hawamdeh said the grant will be used to strengthen the area of cyber security study at UNT and the long-standing collaboration between departments.
“UNT is the first institution to get an award from NSF at the Ph.D. level,” Hawamdeh said. “Graduates are expected to occupy high level positions within their organization. The challenge is in recruiting high-quality students and preparing them for such high-level positions.”
Dantu said that a total of six students will benefit from the grant. Two students will receive a scholarship each fall and will be continually funded through their studies.
“The stipend is more than $50,000 per year,” Dantu said. “These students will not only be taking courses but be doing research. There’s money for them to travel to conferences, there’s money for the books. Their tuition is fully paid.”
Dantu said the interdisciplinary curriculum for earning a doctoral degree in cyber security incorporates economics and informational sciences. Dantu said he arranged existing courses to be taken in a particular sequence.
Experiments will also be conducted to develop new software techniques and research will look into system vulnerabilities and data breaches, Dantu said.
“The grant helps the department, and especially UNT, to leapfrog in the education of cyber security,” Dantu said.
Dan Jong Kim, associate professor of information technology and decision sciences, is also working to establish the cyber security program.
Kim said the field of cyber security encompasses a number of technological areas and the program is designed to expose students to many of those aspects.
“As a team with other faculty in other disciplines, I believe we can develop a resilient multi-disciplinary program for graduates who can respond successfully,” Kim said.
Dantu said student applications will be accepted until all six openings are filled. Information on how to apply can be found at cics.unt.edu.