The University of Louisville has been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help grow the cybersecurity workforce.
The funding, via NSF’s CyberCorps Scholarships for Service, will cover full tuition and stipends for dozens of students over the five-year project period. Students must be enrolled on-campus in the B.S./M.ENG. in computer science and engineering program or M.S. in computer science degree program offered through the UofL J.B. Speed School of Engineering and serve in federal, local, state or tribal government roles in cybersecurity after graduation.
The project is led by principal investigator Wei Zhang and co-principal investigator Adel Elmaghraby, both from the Speed School.
“Our lives are becoming increasingly connected and digital, and the same is true for our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Elmaghraby, also a professor of computer engineering. “As a result, the need for highly trained cybersecurity professionals who can protect those systems is high and rapidly growing. UofL is already leading the development of this workforce and looks forward to expanding efforts through CyberCorps.”
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Data Breach Report, there were a record 1,862 data breaches in 2021, with more than 80% revealing sensitive personal information.
Meanwhile, demand for cybersecurity professionals is high and growing, and the White House’s new National Cybersecurity Strategy calls for “developing a diverse and robust national cyber workforce.”
“Cybersecurity is one of the most important issues confronting society in the information age,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, NSF director, in a news release. “As our reliance on the national cyberspace evolves, so does the complexity of the cyber threats we face. It is imperative that we support the development of a strong cybersecurity workforce to ensure we can all benefit from secure and trustworthy cyberspace.”
UofL is the first and only school in Kentucky to receive an NSF CyberCorps Scholarships for Service grant. To be eligible, schools must be designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense education, cyber operations or research by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
As a Center of Academic Excellence, UofL has led the charge in growing the nation’s cyber talent pool, receiving $8.3 million to lead development of a new microcredential-backed Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate. UofL is also leading another coalition to train high school teachers to teach in their classrooms. In January, Sen. Mitch McConnell announced another $20 million will soon be made available to support cybersecurity training efforts, calling UofL “the center of the growing cybersecurity field.”
Last year, UofL also was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of two new academic networks aimed at cybersecurity strategy and talent pipeline development. UofL was the only school selected from Kentucky for both networks and one of only a handful to hold the competitive Carnegie Research-1 classification.
“With technology continuing to become more of an integral piece of our everyday lives, a strong cybersecurity industry and workforce are the most important protections we have to ensure secure businesses and critical infrastructure across the Commonwealth and nation,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “UofL is proud to lead the charge on this important work.”