TU’s cybersecurity leadership recognized with $500,000 MEI grant

By Megan Bradshaw on January 15, 2019

University faculty will create a world-class cyber education and research center

Computer science class

Towson University has received $500,000 from the Maryland Department of Commerce for its first E-Nnovation grant to establish the Towson University E-Nnovation Endowed Professorship in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS). The E-Nnovation grant will also fund the creation of a Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research to pursue novel solutions to cybersecurity challenges.

The grant comes from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI), a state program that spurs basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields at colleges and universities in the state.

TU qualified for this grant after securing a private contribution through the Division of University Advancement. Such grants that partner matching funds with private donations are crucial to the effort to support TU programs and initiatives through philanthropy — one of President Kim Schatzel's Presidential Priorities.

President Schatzel heralded the E-Nnovation grant as further recognition of TU’s longstanding leadership in cybersecurity education and research.

“As an NSA National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations and one of the first four institutions in the world to receive ABET accreditation in cybersecurity, Towson University is emerging as a global leader in cybersecurity,” Schatzel said.

“This grant affirms TU’s leadership in this field, will accelerate the important work of our faculty and fortify Maryland’s position at the leading edge of cybersecurity.”

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has accredited Towson University’s computer security track in the computer science B.S. degree program until 2024. 

TU’s Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics started one of the first undergraduate cybersecurity tracks in the nation and the first in Maryland. The department has received external funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Army Research Lab among other state and federal agencies.

“The department has demonstrated excellence in cyber education and research and provides critical leadership nationally in the area of cybersecurity,” says Sidd Kaza, CIS professor and department chair.

“The center will consolidate and cement Towson University’s national reputation in cyber and through innovations in education, research, and commercialization, this center will play a role in our nation’s response to cyber threats.”

Recently NIST awarded TU a grant of over $1M over five years as part of a professional research experience program to establish collaborative research among NIST scientists and TU faculty, post-doc and graduate/undergraduate students.

Departmental faculty work on cutting-edge, federally funded cybersecurity research on the wireless networks, cyber-physical systems, reverse engineering, and cyber education. They are also involved in influential national efforts to further cybersecurity education including the first ACM Cybersecurity Degree Guidelines and the National Cybersecurity Curriculum Program.

TU's funding from the grant was part of $6.7M in funding announced Tuesday by the Maryland Department of Commerce.

The Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative was created by the General Assembly during the 2014 legislative session and has provided $34 million in funding to leverage $41.7 million in private donations. The funding can be used to pay salaries of newly endowed department chairs, staff, and support personnel in designated scientific and technical fields of study; fund related research fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students; and purchase lab equipment and other basic infrastructure and equipment.

“Maryland’s colleges and universities are responsible for the groundbreaking research and discoveries that help make Maryland a top-ranked state for innovation. Maryland Commerce is proud to continue supporting the important work being done at these institutions,” said Maryland Commerce Acting Secretary Kelly Schulz. “Now in its fourth year, this program has devoted more than $34 million to support advancements in a broad range of disciplines including geographic information systems, cyber education and research, and data analytics.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: Culture of Philanthropy and TU Matters to Maryland.