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Binghamton University using $3.5M NSF grant for cybersecurity scholarships

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Ping Yang, associate professor of computer science at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, is director of Binghamton University’s Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC) and the driving force behind a $3.5 million National Science Foundation grant for CyberCorps scholarships. (PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN COHEN, BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY)

VESTAL, N.Y. — A federal grant of $3.5 million over the next five years will help Binghamton University offer cybersecurity scholarships to two dozen students.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is designed to recruit and train the next generation of information-technology (IT) experts and security managers to meet the needs of federal, state, local, and tribal governments. 

In return for their scholarships, recipients agree to work after graduation in government cybersecurity positions for a period equal to the length of their scholarships, Binghamton University said.

Faculty members from the departments of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science will oversee Binghamton’s SFS program. If it is deemed a success, the NSF could award further funding.

The school cited CyberSeek, a tech job-tracking database, as indicating about 465,000 open positions in cybersecurity were available nationwide in 2021. The SFS program seeks to help fill the gap, “with a special emphasis on attracting people of diverse backgrounds to the profession.”

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger sees the CyberCorps program as one that takes advantage of several of the campus’ core strengths.

“We know there’s a huge need in this field for highly trained experts,” he said. “Binghamton has a longstanding commitment to first-generation students and scholars from underrepresented minorities. We also have a robust set of course offerings and scholarship related to cybersecurity. It’s exciting to know that Binghamton will play a part in diversifying this essential workforce.”

Securing the NSF grant

In 2020, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security named Binghamton a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Research (CAE-R) through 2025. The designation recognizes the work at the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC), which is led by Ping Yang, a computer science associate professor.

Watson College Dean Krishnaswami (Hari) Srihari acknowledged the faculty and staff who collaborated to seek the NSF funding, “which is granted to fewer than 100 schools nationwide.” Srihari believes it will increase the visibility of Binghamton’s cybersecurity efforts in the academic community and the U.S. government.

“Our researchers and students are building the future by tackling our 21st-century problems head-on,” Srihari said. “Ensuring that our data remain safe is a key part of that future, and all of us will benefit from the knowledge shared here at Binghamton and Watson College.”

Together, the faculty members cover a wide spectrum of research interests, from architectural support for security and software/systems security to steganography, artificial intelligence (AI)-based security and mobile security. The approach mirrors what Yang hopes will happen in government, corporate, and nonprofit settings, especially when members of underserved communities earn their degrees and join the workforce.     

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