UAH student’s cybersecurity internship combines philosophy and computer science

Mark Reuter

Senior computer science and philosophy double major Mark Reuter spent this past summer as a cybersecurity intern with ODU’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

If you think a unique double major like computer science and philosophy would make it challenging for a student to get real-world experience in the field before graduation, Mark Reuter is here to prove otherwise. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) senior spent this past summer as a paid intern focused on cybersecurity research in a multidisciplinary environment after being selected to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Old Dominion University (ODU).

He first learned of the opportunity from UAH philosophy professor Dr. Deborah Heikes, who sent an email to the department’s students about the Virginia university’s interdisciplinary program. In return for free on-campus housing and a stipend of $6,200, those selected would spend 10 weeks conducting full-time research with a mentor in a related field. "I thought, ok, I can do this," says Reuter, who sought assistance on his application from both Dr. Andrew Cling and Dr. Nicholaos Jones. "I submitted it in February, and a week later, they let me know I got the job."

Three months after that, he was ensconced on the ODU campus and tasked with reviewing the existing literature on the ethics of cybersecurity under the supervision of Dr. D. E. Wittkower, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at ODU. "I knew right away when someone walked in with a Hawaiian shirt and crocs that he was my mentor," says Reuter with a laugh. "He had published and presented a lot, but he is a really relaxed person, which is more the environment of philosophy."

Internships are a good way to determine if something actually interests you.

Mark Reuter
UAH student

The workload, however, was anything but relaxed. "I came in as a research assistant to look at the history related to computer ethics, so my focus was on how ethical issues that deal with cybersecurity in academic, government, and corporate settings are argued," says Reuter. "But actual research is different from just going online and looking at something! It’s more thorough. I had to go through 40 or 50 articles on the topic, and then reduce that down to 9 or 10, which was more reading than I think I’ve ever done for a class."

He and his fellow interns were also required to give a summary of their work at their weekly meetings, make two presentations at the end of the summer, and complete a research report. In Reuter’s case, the latter will take the form of a co-authored journal article on cybersecurity ethics that he and Dr. Wittkower plan to submit to the Philosophy & Technology. "My contribution to the paper will be a historical account of computer ethics, and how it became viewed as a legitimate discipline of applied ethics," he says. "This will be in aid to Dr. Wittkower’s argument for the need to talk about the ethics of cybersecurity."

Now that he’s back at UAH, of course, his focus is on his upcoming graduation. But after spending the summer as a research assistant, Reuter has decided the real world can wait a little longer. "Internships are a good way to determine if something actually interests you, and this internship made me realize that I want to do research," he says. "I would like to go to graduate school for a master’s degree in computer science and then get a Ph.D. in philosophy."


Department of Philosophy

Department of Computer Science