UAH now a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense

SAM YOOv

Dr. Seong-Moo (Sam) Yoo, an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. (ECE), led the application procedure.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has joined an elite group of higher education institutions by being named a National Security Agency/Dept. of Homeland Security Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense (NSA/DHS CAE IA/CD).

Nationally at the end of 2014, just 77 universities were CAE IA/CD designated. CAE IA/CD institutions receive formal recognition from the U.S. government as well as opportunities for prestige and publicity for their roles in securing the United States' information systems.

"Our cybersecurity graduates are in high demand and we only see that demand increasing," says Dr. Ray Vaughn, UAH vice president for research and economic development. "UAH is a highly capable cybersecurity university with strong cyber programs in computer science, business, and electrical and computer engineering."

In each of those programs, a UAH student can focus on cybersecurity at the graduate level.

"Because we see an increasing need for graduates in this area, cybersecurity is one of the strategic research priorities of UAH and we are making investments in equipment and faculty to meet this growing need," Dr. Vaughn says. "We are also fortunate to be one of the few programs in the United States that was awarded a National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service program which allows us to provide scholarships to students in exchange for their service as cybersecurity professionals to the U.S. government or Dept. of Defense."

The goal of the program is to reduce vulnerability in the nation's information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in IA/CD and producing a growing number of professionals with IA/CD expertise in various disciplines, says Dr. Seong-Moo (Sam) Yoo, an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. (ECE) who led the application procedure as UAH's point of contact to NSA and collected the necessary data.

"Students attending CAE IA/CD schools are eligible to apply for scholarships and grants through the Dept. of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the NSF Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program," says Dr. Yoo.

UAH is a highly capable cybersecurity university with strong cyber programs in computer science, business, and electrical and computer engineering.

Dr. Ray Vaughn
Vice president for research and economic development

UAH's cybersecurity program is an interdisciplinary effort involving a number of colleges and departments at the university. The CAE IA/CD designation means UAH cybersecurity students will be in a better position to apply for federal government jobs as cybersecurity professionals.

"Also," says Dr. Yoo, "they will have more chances to do research in cybersecurity, since UAH faculty members are now in a better position to apply cybersecurity research funding."

The effort first involved mapping UAH's IA curriculum in all of 17 core knowledge units (KUs) defined by NSA, and five optional KUs of the institution's choice out of 51 optional KUs. A KU encompasses basic data analysis, cyber defense, cyber threats, IA fundamentals, network concepts and other fundamentals.

"We showed that the information assurance-related courses taught in three departments at UAH cover the required and optional KUs," Dr. Yoo says.

Secondly, UAH demonstrated that its IA program includes:

  • Community outreach and collaboration with other institutions;
  • Student development in IA activities;
  • IA/CD institution center establishment and maintenance;
  • IA/CD multidisciplinary efforts in its academic program;
  • The practice of IA/CD at the institution level;
  • IA/CD faculty members both teaching and doing research; and
  • A student curriculum path and recognition at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

"We prepared the process from May 2013 to August 2014," says Dr. Yoo. "Considerable work was done in summer 2014."

The university-wide effort involved:

  • Dr. Feng (Frank) Zhu, who collected data for relevant courses, the research record of the Computer Science Dept. (CS) and mapped the courses to many KUs;
  • Dr. Xiaotong Li, who collected data for relevant courses, the research record of Information Systems (IS) and mapped the courses to many KUs;
  • Dr. Ray Vaughn, vice president for research and economic development, who input UAH's community outreach activities and collaboration with other universities;
  • Other contributing faculty members teaching information assurance-related courses or doing research in IA in the ECE, IS and CS departments;
  • Many staff members from the Office of the Graduate Studies Dean, the Office of Information Technology and other offices, who prepared data for the application.
 

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