FSU Department of Computer Science receives $4.2M to boost nation’s cybersecurity workforce

To help meet the growing demand for cybersecurity experts, the National Science Foundation’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program has awarded Florida State University a $4.2 million grant to support students pursuing careers in cybersecurity.

This is the second round of funding the Department of Computer Science has received to operate this program.

“We are excited to receive the renewal from the National Science Foundation,” said Xiuwen Liu, chair of the department. “With the support from the deans, over the years, we have invested a lot of resources to develop, implement and maintain a technically strong cybersecurity program to be able to educate very capable cyber professionals. This award allows us to continue to help address the workforce shortage in cybersecurity, an issue of national security.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job openings for information-security analysts are projected to increase 33% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average rate for all occupations.

The department’s grant-winning project aims to address the shortage of cybersecurity workers and improve diversity within the cybersecurity workforce. The project will provide scholarships, tuition waivers and professional-development funding to support 32 graduate and undergraduate students in FSU’s cybersecurity degree program.

The renewal is tied to the initial grant, which first received funding from the NSF CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program in 2016.

The program aims to recruit and train the next generation of information-technology professionals, industrial-control-system security professionals and security managers to meet the cybersecurity needs of federal, state, local and tribal governments. The program provides scholarships, funded by NSF grants, for up to three years of support for cybersecurity undergraduate and graduate education. FSU’s SFS-affiliated program is among the largest of the 90 programs at U.S. universities.

In addition to scholarships and academic stipends, students in the cybersecurity program will receive opportunities to explore internships with qualifying agencies over the summer. Scholarship recipients agree to work in cybersecurity-related positions with the U.S. government upon graduating, for a period equal to the length of their scholarship.

“As cyber threats continue to evolve in complexity, so must our approaches to cybersecurity education and our workforce,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “The cybersecurity talent shortage remains a critical issue in the United States, with businesses and government agencies alike struggling to fill critical cybersecurity positions. These new CyberCorps Scholarship for Service projects engage diverse student populations and provide innovative and high-quality educational experiences that will ensure our nation is prepared to meet future cyber threats with a well-trained workforce.”

A portion of the grant will go toward research into the factors influencing students to work in the government sector and ways to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to major in cybersecurity. The grant will also allow the department to purchase software and test beds for security penetration testing, which give researchers the ability to replicate real-world settings and identify potential blind spots within cybersecurity systems.

“This grant will boost the number of FSU cybersecurity students and FSU’s visibility in the cybersecurity field for the next five years,” said computer science professor An-I “Andy” Wang, a new member of FSU’s scholarship management team. “It will also provide support so that a number of FSU computer science students can obtain a master’s in computer science, which will allow them to acquire more computer-science knowledge and enhance their employment opportunities after graduation.”

In addition to Wang and Liu, researchers involved in the project are computer science professors Mike Burmester, David Whalley and Jie Yang, with NSF program managers Victor P. Piotrowski and Li Yang providing additional support. The group will coordinate with various parties, including government recruiters, NSF and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to identify top students and secure internships and careers within the federal government’s Executive Branch.

To learn more about the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, visit nsf.gov.