University News

University of New Haven Earns Historic Grant to Educate the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Professionals

The University received a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish Connecticut’s first CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service program to prepare students to work with federal, state, or local government organizations to prevent cyberattacks.

July 9, 2019

Photo of Cybersecurity students
The University's Scholarship for Service program will prepare students to work for government entities to help prevent cyberattacks.

The University of New Haven has received a $4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant – one of the largest federal grants in the University’s history – to create Connecticut’s first CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service program, which will educate the next generation of professionals charged with protecting the nation from cyberattacks.

The Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is designed to recruit and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to meet the needs of federal, state, local, and tribal government organizations. The program provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students studying cybersecurity and computer science. Scholarship recipients will then pursue employment with a government entity in a cybersecurity-related position.

Applications to the program are being accepted until July 22.

“This grant recognizes the national reputation of our undergraduate and graduate degree programs in cybersecurity and computer science and the potential value our graduates could bring to the federal government, as well as state and local governments,” said Ron Harichandran, Ph.D., dean of the University of New Haven’s Tagliatela College of Engineering and vice provost of research. “The SFS program will provide a steady supply of University of New Haven graduates to the government over the next several years.”

“The University of New Haven has become a national and international leader in cybersecurity and forensics education, and our undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers have already uncovered major software weaknesses that affect billions of people."Ibrahim “Abe” Baggili, Ph.D.

“The government is looking to hire the best of the best in cybersecurity,” added Ibrahim “Abe” Baggili, Ph.D., Elder Family Endowed Chair of Computer Science and Cybersecurity and founder and director of the University’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group. “It is the biggest need they’ve identified in their workforce. They want people who have superior technical skills, and that’s what our graduates provide.”

Earlier this year, the National Security Agency (NSA) designated the University an Academic Center of Excellence in Cyber Operations, making it the only college or university in the state – and one of only 23 in the United States – to earn this distinction.

“The University of New Haven has become a national and international leader in cybersecurity and forensics education, and our undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers have already uncovered major software weaknesses that affect billions of people,” said Dr. Baggili, the principal investigator for the grant. “This grant pushes us to the next level.”

The SFS scholars, said Dr. Baggili, will be expected do research and publish in highly regarded scholarly journals – hallmarks of the University’s cybersecurity and networks program. The University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group has received international attention for, among other discoveries, uncovering vulnerabilities that were addressed in the messaging application WhatsApp, identifying vulnerabilities in a popular virtual reality application, and creating the Artifact Genome Project, which has been supported by the NSF and the Department of Homeland Security.

The scholars will intern with a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization in a cybersecurity position, and they’ll take part in service-learning projects supporting law enforcement or government agencies, helping to solve crimes through digital forensics.

In addition to instilling students with a deep technical understanding, faculty will focus on helping students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. “Because they will work in government jobs that often are limited in resources, we will teach them to think like entrepreneurs on the job and to leverage their limited resources to build success, to not give up, and to find a creative way to solve problems,” Dr. Baggili said.

“Our scholars will be well prepared to meet the deep technical cybersecurity challenges faced by the United States."Ibrahim “Abe” Baggili, Ph.D.

The scholars will also participate in the University’s hacking and cyber forensics collegiate teams that have placed highly in major national competitions, having beaten universities with cybersecurity programs that are two to five times larger.

“Having a competitive mindset is imperative in a field where it is important to defeat or trace an adversary,” Dr. Baggili said.

Dr. Baggili said faculty will also work to develop cybersecurity leaders who are strong team players and who recognize the need to create a more inclusive and diverse cyber operations workforce. To that end, Liberty Page, co-coordinator of the University’s undergraduate program in cybersecurity and networks, will lead a session on diversity and inclusion, and the scholars will also take part in outreach initiatives including the University’s NSA-funded GenCyber Agent Summer Academy that encourages young women and individuals from underrepresented populations to explore opportunities in the field.

After completing their degrees, the scholars will be expected to work for federal, local, state, or tribal governments for the amount of time that they were sponsored, Dr. Baggili said.

“Our scholars will be well prepared to meet the deep technical cybersecurity challenges faced by the United States,” Dr. Baggili said. “We’re really excited about what comes next.”