Purdue Northwest College of Technology awarded nearly $6 million from National Security Agency

September 18, 2020

Michael Tu

The Purdue University Northwest (PNW) College of Technology has been awarded a grant of $5,971,053 for Cybersecurity Workforce Development from the National Security Agency (NSA). Since 2014, Purdue University Northwest has been a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE 4Y) designated jointly by the NSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

PNW Professor of Computer Information Technology and Director of the Center for Cybersecurity Michael Tu is the lead principal investigator for the grant, while Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Information Technology and Graphics Keyuan Jiang, and College of Technology Director of Industrial Relations and Experiential Learning, Deborah Blades, are co-principal investigators.

“Receiving this highly competitive grant award of cybersecurity workforce development is a strong indication of cybersecurity education at PNW and expertise of our computer information technology faculty. This award will help fill the gap of shortage of cybersecurity workforce in this country,” Jiang said.

Deborah Blades

Beginning in September 2020, the two-year grant will allow Purdue University Northwest as the lead institution to collaborate with Ivy Tech Community College, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), to develop a pilot artificial intelligence (AI)-Cybersecurity certification-based national training program for more than 425 transitioning military, first responders, and other adult trainees. The training program will be offered online and free of charge to the trainees.

During the first year of the grant, this coalition will develop a hands-on based AI-Cybersecurity curriculum that contains 12 courses divided into three tracks. Topics include Windows and Linux computer technologies, cloud technology, network, python programming, cybersecurity fundamentals, ethical hacking, hardware security, computer and mobile forensics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The training curriculum is expected to be mapped to existing courses in the cybersecurity programs at each participating institution. This will allow pathways to be created for trainees to pursue degree programs at PNW and other participating institutions.

During the second year of the grant, the three training tracks with 12 courses will be offered online to trainees who were recruited in Year 1 and Year 2 and each of them is expected to take six courses. Trainees are expected to take certification exams and to earn industry and government recognized certifications.

“As a Center of Academic Excellence, our bachelor of science degree in Computer Information Technology and its Cybersecurity concentration is recognized as one of the best cybersecurity programs in the nation,” Tu said. “We are looking forward to introducing highly capable professionals into the workforce to assist with cyber infrastructure on a nationwide level.”

Keyuan Jiang

“This project will provide further opportunities for workforce development in this specialized area of cybersecurity,” Blades added.

With the funded projects, PNW will be able to contribute significantly to national workforce development in the field of AI and cybersecurity. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the need for IT and cybersecurity professionals is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028 with multi-million shortages. According to the Gartner 2019 CIO Survey, the number of companies implementing AI, including machine learning and deep learning, “grew 270% in the past four years and tripled in the past year,” and “37% of the companies surveyed implemented AI.” Through the establishment of this national training program, a large number of qualified professionals will be trained to join the highly demanded workforce in the field of AI and cybersecurity.

Niaz Latif, dean of the College of Technology, stated, “This grant recognizes our faculty expertise and endorses PNW’s proven track record in the area of cybersecurity by the National Security Agency.”