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UMass Amherst Receives $4.2 Million to Train Next National Cybersecurity Workforce

Brian Levine

Successful graduates will enter national service to protect vital assets such utilities, water treatment and military defense systems.

A team of cybersecurity researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by computer scientist Brian Levine has a received a $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring a CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program to the campus, the first public university in New England to receive such an award.

NSF's CyberCorps program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, supports the educational and professional development of domestic students who will help the nation address threats to national security including critical infrastructure such as utilities, water treatment, military defense systems and refineries.

Upon graduation and completing the training, students will join government agencies at full pay and benefits working in cybersecurity, such as the FBI, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and analogous agencies at a state or local level. Any government service involving cybersecurity fulfills the service requirement, ranging from protecting the nation's infrastructure from state-based hackers to joining a state university as a researcher or educator in cybersecurity.

The program, which will support a total of 28 students over the next five years, will admit its first students in the fall 2016 semester, Levine says. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and can receive up to two years of support from the CyberCorps SFS. For each year they accept aid, they will serve for year in a federal, state or local government position related to cybersecurity. 

 "The program offers very generous support," Levine notes, "and we will be actively recruiting women and people from underrepresented minority groups interested in security." Graduate students receive full tuition and fees per year, plus a $34,000 stipend, health insurance reimbursement up to $3,000, a $4,000 travel allowance and book allowance of $2,000; undergraduates received the same except the stipend is $22,500 year. In addition to financial benefits, Levine says students in the CyberCorps SFS program will receive support in extra mentoring groups, assistance in finding summer internships and permanent positions at federal and state agencies, and other professional development opportunities.

Students majoring in the College of Information and Computer Sciences, Isenberg School of Management, the department of mathematics and statistics and the department of electrical and computer engineering at UMass Amherst are eligible to apply. 

Katherine S. Newman, senior vice chancellor and provost, says, "This program answers a critical national shortage of highly trained experts in cybersecurity, and will prepare students for successful careers in this field through a combination of strong curricula, ample professional development, extensive advising, interdisciplinary enrichment and access to recruiting opportunities."

John McCarthy, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, says, "This program will support and expand several of the campus's advanced programs that educate and train cybersecurity researchers and professionals. It will support interdisciplinary cohorts of seven scholars across four nationally recognized colleges and departments at UMass Amherst, computer science, electrical and computer systems engineering, mathematics and statistics and business."

Levine notes, "Our role is to help students move swiftly into government security positions and other roles where there is a shortage." Some of the CyberCorps SFS scholars will come from schools and colleges not usually associated with cybersecurity such as business and statistics, he adds, because "we are trying to train people who know about management and statistics with added computer science expertise to broaden the government's ability to address cybersecurity. Problems in security and privacy are no longer only technical gaps. Multidisciplinary approaches have the best chance at addressing these issues."

Wayne Burleson, professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-principal investigator of the program with Levine, says, "Government agencies really need a program like this because they are competing with major tech and business corporations who offer very attractive financial and tuition incentives. The government needs that same talent and is trying to match recruitment. I think it's important to us as citizens to know that the government is seeking to retain the best talent in the field."

Levine adds, "Meanwhile, as we train these SFS students we're building up a stronger program here at UMass, which benefits all students on campus. Many of the professional development events will be open to all. At the end of five years we will have trained 28 students who have advanced experience and skills in the latest cybersecurity techniques and approaches, and we will help to bring them into the government."

In addition to Levine and Burleson, Mila Sherman, management, Eric Sommers, mathematics, and Marc Liberatore, computer science, are also co-principal investigators of the program.  Faculty members contributing to the grant include Emery Berger, Yuriy Brun, Lori Clarke, Krista Gile, Arjun Guha, Dan Holcomb, Amir Houmansadr, Gerome Miklau, Anna Nagurney, and Ryan Wright.

(Source:  UMass Amherst Office of News & Media Relations