Cyber Security Center gets boost from National Science Foundation grants

Assistant Professor Shamik Sengupta brings in $1.1 million to support research, outreach and teaching

Cyber Security Center gets boost from National Science Foundation grants

Assistant Professor Shamik Sengupta brings in $1.1 million to support research, outreach and teaching

Shamik Sengupta is relatively new to the University of Nevada, Reno, yet he has brought in several projects that escalate the stature of the University's Cyber Security Center.

Based in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Assistant Professor Sengupta is collaborating with colleagues in the department as well as other institutions and businesses to build cybersecurity education in Nevada and to protect corporations around the nation from cyber attacks. He has been awarded $1.1 million in total for three National Science Foundation-funded grants.

"These grants are particularly focused on increasing the capacity of the University's Cyber Security Center in terms of research and the teaching environment, building cybersecurity platforms as well as disseminating  cybersecurity knowledge/awareness to Community colleges and K-12 teachers," Sengupta said. "I'm excited about the progress we've made already."

Computer Science and Engineering Department Chair George Bebis said it is very unusual for a researcher to have three grants so quickly, especially three NSF grants which are very competitive, with 6 to 8 percent success rate, such as those Sengupta recently received.

Sengupta's areas of interest include cybersecurity attack/defense scenarios and network security, both of which are critical cybersecurity areas and among the research priorities of the University's Cyber Security Center.

He is also interested in cybersecurity education, with two of his newest NSF grants in this area.

Market-based mechanisms for cybersecurity
The goal of this project, funded with $329,658 from the NSF, is to develop an interdisciplinary research platform to investigate the framework and benefits of breach-related vulnerability information sharing and analyze the effect of not participating in the process of information exchange.

The outcome of this project will have a profound impact on the evolution of CYBEX (cybersecurity information exchange) architecture, and the level of interaction desired among firms (private, public or federal) to defend proactively from cyber attacks in the ever-growing cyberspace.

Workforce development
The demand for cybersecurity research and a trained cybersecurity workforce is significant and increasing daily. The goal of this collaborative project between the University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College, funded with $262,534 from the NSF, is to develop an interdisciplinary cybersecurity research and education platform.

This effort is aimed towards the development of the next generation of cybersecurity scientists and professionals and to equip them with a solid grasp of different academic viewpoints, including computer science, political science, social psychology, information systems, business, public policy, and justice. The project has both a direct and indirect impact on hands-on research, STEM education, training and career development of the graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students and ultimately, the community.

Training K-12 teachers
This first ever in Nevada "Research Experience for Teachers" project is for the entire Northern Nevada Region, bringing in high school and middle school teachers from four counties to the University for research experience and helping them with their teaching modules. The primary objective of this project is to explore unique ways to engage middle and high school teachers in summer research experiences that emphasize cybersecurity. The teachers will spend six weeks participating in research experiences and developing classroom modules and materials which will be implemented in their classrooms during the academic year. It is funded with $540,000 from the National Science Foundation.

Each of these grants supports the addition of six graduate and undergraduate students to participate, giving them valuable experience working on real world problems. Some of those students will be taking classes from Sengupta as well, as he teaches a Computer Communication Networks class and in the spring semester will teach the Network Security and Digital Design class.

"Shamik has been a true asset to our department both in terms of teaching and research," Bebis said. "He is a rising star who will help us to put the University on the cybersecurity map."

The mission of the University's Cyber Security Center is to perform cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, foster cyber security education in interdisciplinary settings and support workforce development in order to produce high-value employees for both government and industry.

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