On July 29, peers, mentors, and NYIT faculty members applauded the work of the 2015 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) cohort at the program's capstone event. The undergraduate researchers from universities across the United States presented poster summaries showing their projects' aims, methodology, outcomes, and next steps. This year's group studied topics related to cybersecurity for mobile devices, exploring both hardware and software solutions.
The event capped NYIT's third year as a host of the REU program held at select U.S. universities and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the grant is to support hard-working undergraduate students who collaborate with NYIT faculty members to carry out applied research projects. Student researchers, known as REU fellows, are paired with a faculty mentor according to their research interests.
NYIT senior Janina Grayson and research partner Adam Scrivener investigated how to verify a user's identity by collecting biometric information with a stylus. Along with a University of Rochester student, they were mentored by NYIT Assistant Professors Paolo Gasti, Ph.D., and Kiran Balagani, Ph.D., as well as by NYIT graduate student Fatimah Elsayed.
"This program has solidified my desire to pursue a career in cybersecurity," said Grayson. "I know this is the right field for me after being exposed to so many exciting ideas and concepts through our research, the research of other REU fellows, and the projects we learned about by attending two security conferences."
REU fellows include several students who belong to groups underrepresented in the field of computer science, such as Grayson, as well as students whose institutions lack research programs in cybersecurity. Follow-up surveys show that participating in NYIT's REU program increases fellows' likelihood of pursuing graduate education in science and engineering. Beyond NYIT's program, research by organizations such as the Business-Higher Education Forum asserts that "interventions in the early undergraduate years can be targeted to the most at-risk students and the highest-demand fields—including emerging transdisciplinary specialties such as cybersecurity and data analytics—to maximum effect" (view report PDF).
In addition to providing the opportunity for hands-on research, NYIT's REU program engages students in outreach activities such as site visits, volunteering at industry conferences, and presenting their findings to other cybersecurity professionals.
At the capstone event, NYIT senior and REU fellow Rajan Khullar and research partner Akshay Navada of the Cooper Union presented their research topic on determining a smartphone's location indoors and noted that it has sparked interest from intelligence agencies and others. NYIT Associate Professor Tao Zhang, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Ziqian (Cecilia) Dong, Ph.D., mentored Khullar and Navada.
Fellows' family members and others from the NYIT community attended the final presentation and poster session. View a list of all REU fellows.
Cybersecurity will be front and center again at NYIT's Cybersecurity Conference on Thursday, Sept. 24. Save the date and read more about the conference.