NSF finance $4.4m grant to advance cybersecurity education

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has revealed it will be providing a $4.4m federal grant to educate the next generation of cybersecurity researchers and professionals.

The sizeable investment has been awarded to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), which they will employ to finance their CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) programme, which started in 2015, for a further five years. The grant will help to cultivate future cybersecurity experts, providing substantial financial support to assist students in launching their careers and giving them a clear path to jobs within the federal government.

The SFS programme is led by the College of Information and Computer Science’s (CICS) Brian Levine and is supported by co-investigators Marc Liberatore from CICS, and Dan Holcomb and Wayne Burleson from the electrical and computer engineering department in the College of Engineering.

Developing cybersecurity talent

The grant will support 31 undergraduate and graduate scholars in UMass Amherst’s nationally-recognised computer science and electrical and computer engineering degree programmes. The money will provide the students with full tuition and fees, a stipend ranging from $25,000 per year for undergrads to $34,000 per year for graduate students, and an additional professional development fund for one to three years of their degree programme.

Furthermore, the grant will enable students to partake in an internship at a federal agency during the summers and, upon graduation, will allow them to work full time at a federal agency for one to three years in a cybersecurity role, for which they will receive full pay and benefits.

Levine said: “This is a unique and potentially life-changing programme. Students have the opportunity to study without bearing the burden of the cost of education, intern with a federal agency, and then move directly to a good job, working for the common good by serving with a federal agency of their choice after graduation.”

Supporting under-represented students

The programme will collaborate with a wide cohort of faculty and staff to recruit under-represented students from Bunker Hill Community College, Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts, as well as Brookdale Community College in New Jersey.

Laura Haas, Dean of CICS, said: “In keeping with the CICS mission of computing for the common good, UMass’s SFS programme will not only continue to actively recruit and retain women and underrepresented minorities, but it is also redoubling its efforts to do so.”

The programme also includes a partnership with the Collaborative for Educational Services, which is a non-profit that recruits high school students for STEM careers, especially those of colour and from low-income backgrounds.

Sanjay Raman, Dean of the College of Engineering, said: “This programme will help create a new generation of cybersecurity professionals and researchers to address novel and challenging problems facing society. These students will help to modernise the Executive-branch workforce, advance science and technology at government laboratories, and secure our national defence.”

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