A group of NDSU computer science undergraduate students participated in national security-relevant cybersecurity research and outreach activities at NDSU this summer. The students, which included sophomores Keaton Hasse and Sydney Deaton, and senior Mason Kornezos, developed software, conducted analysis and performed a variety of outreach activities in support of multiple projects.
Summer on-campus cybersecurity research provides students with leadership and skill development opportunities much earlier in their careers than may be otherwise possible. Students take leadership roles in teams and learn while doing. They also collect and analyze valuable data.
“I have been given many opportunities to widen my knowledge,” said Hasse, who is from Wahpeton, North Dakota and also serves in the North Dakota National Guard. “I am getting real world experience in software development. I have been able to connect with my co-worders and learn from them. My current position is a great steppingstone to further my career.”
NDSU is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in cyber-defense research by the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, which opens several doors for students. This includes opportunities for collaboration with researchers from federal agencies and specialized career fairs. It also includes many service opportunities.
“This summer research opportunity has allowed me to expand my technical experience as a computer science major,” said Kornezos, who is from Red Lake, Minnesota. Mason is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota and also leads cybersecurity outreach activities to Native American communities within the Cybersecurity Institute at NDSU.
“I enjoyed making connections with other members of the field and learning about their skills. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with educators in my tribal communities and spread our knowledge to them,” he said.
For many students, on-campus research opportunities may be their first job in their field. In addition to benefiting the students, in terms of technical and interpersonal skill development, it also provides fresh perspectives to each research project. University research is about pushing the boundaries of knowledge and students’ lack of experience in doing things in a conventional way can directly support this goal.
Whether they pursue future research in a university environment or not – or decide to pursue a career in or outside of academia, summer research participation typically has a lasting impact on students.
“I made lasting, quality relationships with coworkers and learned about researching as a team and its importance,” said Deaton, who is from St. Cloud, Minnesota. “There were many opportunities to travel, learn and make connections that will benefit my future. It also helped me develop skills for my career and boost my resume.”
On-campus research builds on what students learn in the classroom and helps them understand its importance. In computer science, research provides students with the opportunity to work on larger projects that include key challenges like the need for more robust design and project management processes than they gain experience with through class projects.
“Undergraduate research is quite synergistic,” said Jeremy Straub, NDSU associate professor of computer science, director of the NDSU Cybersecurity Institute and projects’ principal investigator. “Students contribute to discovery and learn key skills that will serve them throughout their careers. In many cases, they will develop specialized cutting-edge knowledge in their technical research area.”
Straub has supervised over fifty undergraduate researchers work on cybersecurity-related topics during the last six summers. These include students from NDSU and from other parts of the United States.
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