Tommy Morris giving a presentation in front of an audience.
UAH Director of the CCRE and Eminent Scholar and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Tommy Morris.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, has been re-designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Research (CAE-R) by the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C). The designation was earned after a comprehensive review of cybersecurity-related research activities and outcomes from the students, faculty and research staff involved in computer science and computer engineering doctoral programs and in the UAH Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education (CCRE). The CAE-R re-designation is now approved through academic year 2028.

“The CAE-R designation tells employers that our students, faculty and staff are conducting research at the cutting edge of cybersecurity,” says the UAH Director of the CCRE and Eminent Scholar and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Tommy Morris. “The designation also tells government agencies that they can come to us for help solving hard cybersecurity problems. There are only 79 schools with this designation in the United States, and only 48 schools nationally that hold both the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Research and Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense designations. We are proud to be among that select group.”

National Centers of Excellence Logo.
Courtesy NCAE-C

The NCAE-C, the program that makes these designations, is managed by the National Security Agency, along with other federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Science Foundation. The CAE-R designation is awarded to Department of Defense (DOD) schools, Ph.D.-producing military academies and regionally accredited, degree-granting four-year institutions.

“The designation recognizes that UAH is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Doctoral University: Very High Research Activity, that we have a large number of student, faculty and staff researchers producing high volumes of cybersecurity-related research and that we have adequate funding to continue supporting that research into the future,” Morris explains.

In making the announcement, the National CAE Program Manager, NSA Renae Weathers, stated, “UAH’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure. The National Cyber Strategy addresses the critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills and highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace. A highly skilled cybersecurity workforce is a strategic national security advantage. Education is the key to promoting these ideals.”

UAH Computer Science Department Chair, Dr. Letha Etzkorn, notes, “The CAE-R designation reflects the advanced research in cybersecurity being done at UAH. Cybersecurity faculty research has been funded by the Air Force Research Lab, the National Institute of Justice, NASA, the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation.”

Examples include GPS-denied positioning, machine learning applications, digital forensics, reverse engineering, psychological attacks and cloud security, Etzkorn reports. “Many UAH computer science alumni work as DOD civilian employees and as government contractors. Also, some of our alumni have worked or are working for the Space and Missile Defense Command, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and NASA, among others.”

UAH Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Chair, Dr. Aleksandar Milenkovic, adds, "Recent research endeavors have been instrumental in ensuring the trust and security of modern electronic systems, including the Internet of Things (IoTs) and satellites. We are at the forefront of defending against adversarial attacks, developing robust and resilient communication systems and leveraging machine learning for cybersecurity operations."