Dr. Li Yang stands with several other university members as she accepts her grant. Contributed Photo.

By Eric Wise, Staff Writer —

A group of students will learn how to improve our nation’s cybersecurity defenses and help protect Americans from malicious online attacks and other crimes, thanks to funding from a federal grant.

Dr. Li Yang, a professor and assistant dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, has secured a $1.54 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant comes as part of a partnership with Tuskegee University, which received its own grant, to launch a new Scholarship and Service Program for cybersecurity.

“The grant is to promote cybersecurity, and to graduate cybersecurity professionals to defend the US cyberspace,” said Yang.

The goal of the grant is to graduate 18 highly capable cybersecurity professionals — with nine students coming from UTC. Yang plans to use the grant to recruit qualified students, conduct student research, attend conferences, provide community outreach to K-12 schools and attend scholarly forums. Additionally, these nine undergraduate students would compete in the National Collegiate Cybersecurity Defense Competition (CCDC).

Cybersecurity is essential to our daily lives. Whether it is the passwords protecting our social media accounts or the sophisticated software that keeps our banking information safe, it all relies on advancements in cybersecurity. There has been a lot of speculation in the news about whether the Russian government hacked political party email servers during the election. It is the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who watch for and protect our country from attacks like this. These two national security agencies work alongside the NSF to make these grants possible.

“[Cybersecurity] is needed to protect our critical infrastructures,” said Yang.

Yang serves as the director of UTC’s Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (CAE-IA/CD), a program that was designated by the NSA and DHS in 2008. The CAE-IA/CD has secured designations from the NSA and DHS for seven years from 2014-2021. Through her leadership in this program Yang has been securing grants from the NSF since 2010. She said those grants acted as the foundation for the new grant.

UTC is now one of 69 CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service institutions in the United States. Dr. Yang is working with Dr. Nelsi Alp, Dr. Joseph Kizza and Prof. Kathy Winters in leading this new project at UTC.

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