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NSF Provides $5 Million Grant for Cybersecurity Fellows Program

March 30, 2017 – A new scholarship-for-service program designed to help strengthen and diversify the nation’s cybersecurity workforce will begin at Georgetown this fall.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a five-year, $5 million grant, the Cybersecurity Fellows Program will initially provide tuition and a stipend annually to about eight students interested in pursuing careers that protect the nation’s computer systems.

In return, students who graduate from the program agree to work in a position related to cybersecurity at a government agency.

Subject to NSF approval, they may also work for a state, local, tribal or territorial government or a federally funded research and development center.

Mitigating Problems

Professor Clay Shields“We need people who are trained to help mitigate the nation’s problems in computer security and nationwide, and we just don’t have enough,” says Clay Shields, a Georgetown computer science professor and lead principal investigator for the NSF grant establishing the program. “Government has a hard time attracting cybersecurity experts because industry can pay higher salaries.”

The scholarships, funded by the NSF’s CyberCorps™ Scholarship for Service Program, are for up to two years, and graduates of the program must work for a period equal to the length of their scholarships. Students applying to the Georgetown program must work for at least a year.

“If cybersecurity students receive scholarships and stipends up front and then work for a couple of years, it makes the positions in government far more competitive,” Shields explains.

Work placements will include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government agencies, as well as federally funded institutions such as The MITRE Corporation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Reaching Out

Undergraduates in the program receive stipends of $22,500 with $34,000 allowed for graduate students. Students also qualify for paid internships if they are part of the program over the summer semester.

Shields says he and the other principle investigators – fellow computer science professors Mark Maloof, Micah Sherr and Eric Burger – have reached out to students in the interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) program and in the graduate Security Studies Program.

The group also will reach out to the Women Who Code student group and the Cristo Rey Network of high schools.

A Big Difference

“We are interested in doing this in part because we think this kind of scholarship could make a really big difference in people’s lives,” Shields says. “This is a way to commit to helping these students that reduces their costs.”

The students take a one-credit cybersecurity seminar for each semester of their scholarship.

The seminar provides students with an understanding of topics such as the requirements for security clearances and the roles federal agencies have in securing and protecting government and civilian networks, as well as up to date information on current cybersecurity issues. 

Tremendous Opportunity

Georgetown already has produced a number of students who excel in the field of cybersecurity. 

James Pavur (SFS’16), a STIA major at Georgetown, won a Rhodes scholarship last year to pursue a D.Phil in cybersecurity at Oxford. And Remi Cohen (C’15), another STIA student, is already working in a government cybersecurity position.

Shields hopes the Cybersecurity Fellows Program will produce many other students who want to work in the area.

“This program provides a tremendous opportunity,” Shields says. “Essentially students get their tuition paid, are guaranteed paid work over the summer and when they are done, essentially guaranteed a job."

The program is currently taking applications to be a Cybersecurity Fellow at Georgetown for the fall 2017 semester.