UAB receives prestigious NSF Scholarship for Service grant to help bolster the nation’s cybersecurity workforce

The $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation will provide cybersecurity scholarships to graduate students in exchange for their service with local, state or federal organizations upon graduation.

nsf grant 2017From left: Dean Robert Palazzo (UAB), Dan Stein (DHS), Joan-Ferrini Mundy (NSF), Nitesh Saxena (PI; UAB), Jeff Walker (Co-PI; UAB), Yuliang Zheng (Co-PI; UAB), Clif Triplett (OPM), Phyllis Schneck (DHS). Missing: Puri Bangalore (Co-PI; UAB). Photo credit: National Science Foundation  The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Alabama at Birmingham a $2.1 million Scholarship for Service grant to help prepare a highly qualified workforce to address cybersecurity challenges and threats against the nation’s computer and information systems.

The NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, in coordination with the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Homeland Security, is an effort to address the growing threat to the nation’s information technology infrastructure. Every year, select four-year colleges and universities are chosen to receive scholarship grants to recruit and train the next generation of cybersecurity and information assurance professionals.

“NSF’s Scholarship for Service is a highly prestigious and competitive program,” said Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., associate professor of computer and information sciences and the principal investigator for the grant. “With this grant, UAB joins an elite group of universities doing cutting-edge work to prepare a cybersecurity workforce ready to defend against malicious attackers. The grant award is a result of years of collaborative efforts between the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Department of Justice Sciences.” 

Students applying to or currently pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Forensics and Security Management degree will have the opportunity to apply to the UAB CyberCorps program. A total of 16 students will be selected over the course of the five-year grant. The scholarships provide academic year stipends of $34,000 per year and cover expenses normally incurred by full-time students in the institution, including tuition and education-related fees; a health insurance reimbursement allowance of up to $3,000 per year; and a professional development allowance of $4,000, and a book allowance of $2,000 per academic year. All scholarship recipients are required to complete an internship and work for a federal, state, local or tribal government organization in a position related to cybersecurity for a period equal to the length of the scholarship after graduation.

"Teaching our students relevant skills and technologies will help protect our communities and provide our graduates with rewarding careers. The SFS grant will help us accomplish those goals while contributing to the security of the nation.”

To learn more about the program or to apply, visit the UAB CyberCorps website.

“It is critical that we continue to invest in cybersecurity education,” said Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Combating cybercrime is more important than it has ever been and will continue to be a priority in protecting sensitive information and data — both public and private. Teaching our students relevant skills and technologies will help protect our communities and provide our graduates with rewarding careers. The SFS grant will help us accomplish those goals while contributing to the security of the nation.”

The MS-CFSM program is a unique collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of Computer and Information Sciences and Justice Sciences and the Collat School of Business Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods. The interdisciplinary program prepares students to practice in the fields of computer forensics and cybersecurity, including information security, forensic accounting and IT audit. Students develop required skills, including familiarity with industry practices, innovative methods, critical thinking and problem solving, that are crucial for competitiveness and success in an entry-level or advanced position in government or the private sector. It is designed to increase the pipeline of prospective high-quality employees involved with protecting physical and virtual systems vital to the United States. The core curriculum includes courses in computer forensics and cybercrime investigation, information security management, and ethics. Students then choose a specialization in either cybercrime investigations or IT audit and fraud examination.

“Rather than building a Scholarship for Service program from scratch, we have leveraged our existing CFSM program, which directly supports the federal government’s call to prepare professionals to develop new tools and applications that improve the capacity to use and process digital evidence and combat cybercrime,” said Yuliang Zheng, Ph.D., professor and chair of Computer and Information Sciences, and a co-investigator on the grant.

Other co-investigators on the grant include Purushotham Bangalore, Ph.D., professor of computer and information sciences, and Jeff Walker, Ph.D., professor and chair of Justice Sciences. UAB is one of the five universities in the state and one of about 70 in the country selected to offer CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service.

For more information about the program or to apply, visit the UAB CyberCorps website

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