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CICS Alumnus Jakob Kreuze ‘21 Wins 2021 President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition

Cameron Musco wins 2021 President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition
Jakob Kreuze (center)

Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences alumnus Jakob Kreuze '21 was honored for his first-place win in the 2021 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition at a recent White House ceremony. 

The 2021 competition was Kreuze's first time participating in the multi-round, virtual challenge aimed at training and recognizing cybersecurity professionals in the federal workforce. Participants were challenged to outmaneuver over 300 competitors in a series of tests that, while fictitious, are based on real-world simulations.

"The last 30 minutes were probably the most stressful. I was in second place for most of the competition, and it was only within the last 10 minutes that the leader failed one challenge to push me into first place," says Kreuze. 

Kreuze currently works as a systems engineer at Hanscom Air Force Base as part of the PALACE Acquire program (PAQ), which offers a paid, full-time training program for recent graduates interested in pursuing STEM-based civilian roles within the federal workforce. He credits his time as an undergraduate at UMass Amherst with increasing his computing knowledge and introducing him to his current position.

"While I was at UMass, I enjoyed studying cryptography, which is certainly relevant to what I do at Hanscom. But my favorite class was COMPSCI 250: Introduction to Computation, taught by Marius Minea," says Kreuze. "I came into UMass being self-taught in programming and security, but I didn't have a lot of exposure to the intersection of formal mathematics and computer science. That class was my first introduction to the rigorous side of computing." 

During his time at CICS, Kreuze served as the co-faculty director of the Cybersecurity Club. He also took advantage of undergraduate research opportunities at CICS, working with Assistant Professor Adam O'Neill on a research project involving deterministic encryption. O'Neill, remembering their work together, calls Kreuze "one of the most motivated and talented undergraduates I've met anywhere."

"As an undergraduate, you might not know much about how to get involved in research, but your professors do," Kreuze explains. "A professor with knowledge of the domain is likely able to suggest some direction on research-what's been done in the past, what papers to read. It was a great collaborative experience for me."

As a recent graduate, Kreuze advises current undergraduate students to start early and to take advantage of resources available through CICS Careers.

"I learned about my current position in the PAQ program through the Tech Jobs and Internships career fair. Going to career fairs and speaking to the representatives is a great way to learn what opportunities are out there," he says. "Even if you don't feel like you have the constitution to spontaneously initiate a conversation at a career fair, there are smaller events available that allow you to talk to recruiters one-on-one. You can learn about what the company does and what its values are without being in a huge crowd. But had I not gone to the career fair, I probably wouldn't have found the opportunity that I have right now."

Kreuze is currently pursuing a master's degree in computer science from Brown University beginning this fall, and plans to compete in the upcoming 2022 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition.