NSF Security Scholarships Available

Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 06:10 PM gHale

Students will get financial assistance and a vital foot in the door when it comes to employment in cyber security positions.

That is because of a five-year, $4.2 million National Science Foundation-funded full cyber security scholarship program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), university officials said.

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“This is a highly competitive program with only a few universities nationally that are funded to implement it. It allows us to attract students to UAH for the scholarship and to support those students that are awarded the scholarship,” said Dr. Ray Vaughn, UAH vice president for research and economic development. “It is prestigious and allows our students to be exposed to other cyber corps scholarship students nationally, as well as to gain valuable on-the-job experience during their internships. The grant provides an opportunity for renewal after five years by submitting another NSF proposal to do so.”

The scholarship is the best opportunity he knows for a student that wants to enter the field of cyber security as a working professional, Vaughn said.

“It affords the student the opportunity to focus on cyber security studies without worrying about financial concerns associated with tuition, living expenses or books,” he said. “It also gives the recipient the opportunity to immediately move into a cyber security position upon graduation and serve the government in an exciting and very important role.”

The Scholarship for Service (SFS) program pays for tuition, reimburses health insurance up to a maximum of $2,000 a year, reimburses books up to $1,000 a year and pays for professional development travel up to $3,000 a year. In addition, a stipend goes out each academic year for $20,000 for undergraduates, $25,000 for master’s degree students and $30,000 for doctoral students. Scholarships are for two academic years (four semesters) for undergraduates and master’s degree students and for three years (six semesters) for doctoral students. A single student cannot receive more than one SFS scholarship.

“I ran this same program at Mississippi State University (MSU) for over 10 years so I’m well versed in its advantages and I know what it takes to be successful,” Vaughn said. “I grew the MSU program into one of the largest in the U.S. and would hope to have the same sort of success here.”

Students can get a leg up on cyber security hiring through the scholarship as they serve a paid internship during the summer semester in a government cyber security related position and fulfill a post-graduation scholarship obligation of one year of government service in a cyber security related position for each year of scholarship.

“These students must work for the government – federal, state, local or tribal – after graduation, so the internship provides them with mentoring and real world experience during their educational experience and offers the government the opportunity to get to know the student prior to making a permanent job offer,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn is the chief principal investigator for the NSF grant program, along with co-principal investigators Dr. Sara Graves, Computer Science Department professor and director of the UAH Information Technology and Systems Center (ITSC); Dr. Jatinder (Jeet) Gupta, associate dean of the UAH College of Business Administration (CBA); and Dr. Seong-Moo (Sam) Yoo, associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department.

“I selected a very experienced and mature team of faculty to work with at UAH,” Vaughn said. “They represent three colleges – Science, Business Administration and Engineering. These are the colleges that we will draw students from.”

“A number of M.S. and Ph.D. students are conducting research in cyber security,” Graves said. “The NSF grant for SFS will help the Computer Science Department attract some of the best students to B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. programs and further enhance the ongoing research activities in the area of cyber security.”

Yoo said availability of the scholarships may enhance UAH nationally. “This scholarship is announced nationally, so UAH can recruit scholarship recipients from talented students nationally,” he said.

In addition, Yoo said the scholarships will benefit students in the ECE Department, which offers information assurance programs, a master of science (MS) degree in cyber security with a computer engineering track and a master of science in engineering degree in computer engineering/electrical engineering (CPE/EE) with a concentration in information assurance. In addition, a doctoral student in CPE/EE can select a cyber security related research subject in his or her doctoral dissertation. Also, the department is planning to offer an undergraduate or graduate certificate in cyber security engineering while a student continues to study to obtain his or her BS/MSE degree in CPE.

“This scholarship program will help the department to recruit new students who have financial difficulty but have strong intentions to study cyber security engineering for their careers,” Yoo said. “The scholarship may encourage some existing students to change their future career goals.”

UAH’s College of Business Administration participates in offering the MS degree in cyber security and offers a graduate certificate program in cyber security studies and an undergraduate concentration in cyber security and information assurance.

“The NSF grant for SFS will help us attract some of the best students, who upon graduation will serve the governmental agencies,” Gupta said. “Cyber security is one of the strategic thrusts of UAH. These scholarships and the opportunities created for the students will enhance the university’s reputation and will attract more students and more qualified faculty. This will help UAH to serve the community better, as well.”

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