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computer science

Computer science interns learn hacking 101 and other cyber secrets

Internships are the most realistic way to introduce students to a professional career environment in computer science. When college students are unsure of what area(s) to pursue in their discipline, an internship can provide insight and direction. Bonus: It doesn’t hurt that internships are key opportunities to network with professionals and scope out the job market.

Meaghan Longenberger, a computer science major from Hickory Creek, Texas, completed an internship in the IBM X-Force Red unit in Austin, Texas. Tabor Kvasnicka, a computer simulation and gaming student from Enid, Oklahoma, also interned at IBM in Austin earlier this year. Both students gained valuable exposure to the many different options a cybersecurity career offers.

Hacking 101

Longenberger’s internship involved shadowing projects underway with IBM Red team communications, writing a proposal for what kind of research she wanted to conduct at IBM, presenting her research and participating in an eight-week bootcamp that covered all areas of the cybersecurity industry.
“I got experience explaining, ‘here’s what I did and here are the results’ in front of executives,” she said. “It was good practice speaking in front of people and trying to explain technical details.”

The bootcamp involved an IBM specialist visiting the Austin lab each week to give presentations on cyber topics such as how to hack wi-fi, lock-picking and physical security, pen-testing, social engineering and more. “All of these experts who work there discussed the team’s internal processes,” Longenberger explained. “It was a brain dump, but so amazing to learn from all of these different people who have been in the industry for years.”

An interest in computers combined with her father’s background in electronics and her grandfather’s experience in electrical engineering led Longenberger to The University of Tulsa and the computer science major. During her TU career, she has conducted a Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC) project with Tyler Moore, Tandy Associate Professor of Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. “We did a lot of data scraping and analyzing how different cyberattacks would affect cryptocurrency and crypto-exchange marketplaces,” she said.

Working in a professional setting at IBM demonstrated Longenberger’s cybersecurity skills, and she said the connections made at IBM will benefit her career. “Interning is the closest to real-world work. I know I can always reach out to the people that I met at X-Force for advice on companies and work environments.”

Containerized environment visibility

Kvasnicka worked for in the chief information security office at IBM as part of the company’s security operations center. He served on the architect team and researched open source and internal solutions to a rising problem in containerized environments visibility. Tools exist for studying the visibility of traditional environments such as threat monitoring but fewer resources are available for monitoring environments that use Kubernetes, docker and other related technologies. “It was interesting to see a problem in the cybersecurity world that was a real-life problem for an international company like IBM with 300,000 employees,” Kvasnicka said.

His IBM internship complements the work Kvasnicka has done the past two summers at eLynx Technologies in Tulsa along with competitive learning opportunities as a TU team member at the Collegiate Cyber Defense, Capture the Flag and Collegiate Pen-Testing competitions. He is also a TU TokenEx Fellow who has received a cybersecurity scholarship from the Oklahoma-based data protection platform company TokenEx, founded by TU computer science alumni. “Dr. Hale’s lab prepared me for the IBM role because we worked with things like infrastructure and scaling,” Kvasnicka said. “I came to TU to learn how to make video games, but now that I’ve experienced what I could potentially do in the cybersecurity world, I’m strongly considering the field.”

Guidance from faculty and alumni

A simple email or phone call is all it takes sometimes to help a student find an internship. John Hale, Tandy Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, told Longenberger about IBM X-Force Red and encouraged her to apply. “I’ve been talking to friends who go to other colleges, and the fact that we have professors who will reach out and say, ‘hey, here’s this cool internship opportunity,’ is important,” she said. “I think that’s what TU is good at, especially in the computer science department.”

Hale said he receives calls frequently from TU alumni at corporations such as Amazon, IBM or Google who are searching for qualified interns. Career fairs and class presentations from company representatives also lead to fruitful internships. According to Hale, placing a student on the path to a successful career can be as easy as matching an alumni member with a current student. “It’s the idea of imprinting,” he said. “That first internship, they bond with alumni whether it involves writing code, developing software, managing systems, or data science and analytics. Those interactions don’t happen as often at larger schools.”

Laser weapon control systems

Computer science junior Max Johnson of Silver Spring, Maryland, discovered his Naval Surface Warfare Center internship at a TU career fair. He was advised to apply to military bases across the country and obtained a position at a location in his home state. Through the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program, Johnson spent 10 weeks with seven other members of the software development team developing U.S. laser weapon control systems. “We looked at the processes in place for reporting laser weapon control activity,” he said. “It was a mix of development and implementation, a lot of fixing bugs and adding new features to software.”

The Naval Surface Warfare Center was Johnson’s most technical and favorite internship so far, and the developers he worked with suggested he consider returning to the team in the future. Currently, he is applying to TU’s computer science accelerated program to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. Longer and Kvasnicka also are enrolled in the accelerated option to earn both degrees. “There’s so much to explore in computer science, and my classes offer ways to explore new topics. I wouldn’t mind developing for a few years,” Johnson said.

Longenberger and Kvasnicka also agree interning in a competitive industry environment is enticing for the careers that await. “I’d say it was a 10 out of 10 for my internship experience,” Kvasnicka said. “Now that I’ve seen a little more of the real world, I’m excited for what the future holds.” 

Cybersecurity alumnus Tony Meehan: Be curious, stay humble to succeed in the industry

A cybersecurity degree from The University of Tulsa is a golden ticket to career success. There are large corporations, medium-sized security organizations and small, innovative startups, but no matter the path a TU grad chooses, there’s plenty of room for their expertise in the cyber industry.

Value and work ethics in the cyber industry

With two TU degrees to his name, Tony Meehan (BS ’03, MS ’05) has found his purpose in the cybersecurity field. Meehan is Vice President of Engineering at Endgame, an endpoint security software product company specializing in stopping advanced cyber threats. Their mission: to stop attackers from stealing data. The company recently announced its acquisition by Elastic, a public company with a focus on search, logging, security and analytics. Endgame software engineers are located across the country from coast to coast. Meehan joined Endgame in 2014 after working for almost a decade at the National Security Agency.

Tony Meehan“I was looking for a small and exciting startup that understood the adversary,” he said. “We have to evolve every day to prove to our customers that Endgame is the only endpoint security product they will ever need. And we’ve learned along the way that to build a great product, you have to invest in building a culture that respects and empowers people.”

Meehan first learned these values in college. Long before he built computer network exploitation tools for the NSA, the Jenks, Oklahoma, native sat in a TU lab discovering the discipline required to find failures in software and become a well-rounded engineer.

“I learned the value of curiosity, tenacity, and humility,” he explained. “I learned that by asking questions and working with a diverse team of people with different backgrounds and experiences, that’s how you accomplish something great — not as an individual but as a team.”

Meehan’s interest in the TU Tandy School of Computer Science began as a participant in his high school’s FIRST Robotics Club. The group partnered with TU to prepare for competitions, and he was “blown away with just how easy it was for TU students to write microcontroller software on the fly to solve complex problems.”

Enrolling at TU was a fateful decision that aligned with the plans of a few other students who also have made their mark in the industry. Classmates included Phil McAllister, one of the original engineers at Instagram, and TU Tandy Associate Professor of Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Tyler Moore, an international expert on cryptocurrency and security economics.

“It was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment. They are all brilliant people. I had to work hard to keep up with them,” Meehan said. “The caliber of people around you at this university demands the best version of yourself — that’s something I value to this day.”

Building the team at Endgame

The computer science and cyber education, and TU’s honors program, left a permanent impression on his leadership style and work ethic. Endgame competes with companies 10 times their size, but he welcomes going toe-to-toe with them because Meehan believes in the talent and character of his team.

“There are three things we look for when hiring engineers: curiosity, the tenacity to never give up, and humility,” he said. “I want to know if people care about learning and growing, if they have the imagination to achieve the impossible, and if they can put aside their ego and put the goals of their team and organization above their own. These are all qualities I learned from my peers and professors at TU.”

TU as a family

Meehan said TU is well respected within the cybersecurity industry, including at Endgame, but the university became more than just a top-ranked cyber program in 2010 when he suffered a life-changing accident. After a snowboarding injury that left his leg severely mangled, TU faculty and students were a support system for Meehan. In recovery, he blogged about the experience that eventually involved an amputation below the knee. TU computer science students developed a Twitter machine that automatically tweeted Meehan’s blog posts.

“TU was with me every step of the way,” he said. “The outpouring of that family connection was incredible and humbling. TU supports and stays with you your entire life.”

He and his family currently reside in Washington, D.C., but he returns home to Tulsa several times a year for both personal and professional business. “People see the investments we’re making in Tulsa,” Meehan said. “In my field, you’re no longer isolated by where you live geographically, so I think it’s a lot easier for TU to take a leadership role in the industry.”

After receiving a first-class cyber education from TU, students can choose to spread their wings across the country or plant roots in Tulsa where cyber companies and startups can afford to take risks and think big.

“It goes back to those values I mentioned earlier,” Meehan said. “Tenacity, humility and curiosity — if you have those as underpinnings of your approach to any pursuit, you’re going to succeed. That’s where TU stands out.”

TU organizes community workshop for high-performance computing curriculum development

The University of Tulsa’s Tandy School of Computer Science hosted the Community Building for High-Performance Computing Curriculum Development workshop June 10-12, 2019, in Keplinger Hall. The workshop brought together 19 faculty members and professionals in high-performance computing (HPC) and data science from 10 states to discuss how to improve training and build a stronger community in the field.

Also known as supercomputing, high-performance computing is applied to many disciplines such as physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics and biology. Students with high-performance skills and the ability to operate supercomputers solve multidisciplinary topics and are instrumental engineers skilled in computer programming, hardware and web domains. Examples of high-performance computing include modeling quantum mechanics or searching large medical data sets to determine which protein structures are effective in fighting disease.

Careers in high-performance computing and computational science recently have been ranked as some of the most satisfying in the United States in terms of job satisfaction, compensation/salary and opportunities. Graduates are expected to fuel the next industrial revolution, which will focus on big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The workshop investigated the following three areas:

  • How to best provide high-performance computer training for undergraduates in a 4-year degree program.
  • How to increase interest in high-performance computing at the undergraduate level.
  • How to build and expand the high-performance computing community.

Experts in the high-performance computing field

computing
High-performance computing experts and faculty from across the nation attended the TU event.

Career pathways in the field were presented by Henry Neeman, assistant vice president of information technology for the University of Oklahoma, and George Louthan, associate director for research computing strategy at the University of Oklahoma Supercomputer Center for Education and Research. A career in high-performance computing is deeply rewarding and intellectually challenging with professionals learning about a wide variety of subjects through their work with researchers. Strong soft skills are a necessity in this field as one must interact with a wide range of customers from users and researchers to vendors and technical support professionals. Neeman also discussed his experiences on creating and running the annual Oklahoma Supercomputing Symposium, which will be held for the 18th year on Sept. 24 and 25, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma, on the OU campus. Stephen Harrell, senior research analyst for information technology at Purdue University described the university’s HPC apprenticeship program and its student cluster competition. These programs support Purdue’s efforts to generate home-grown talent for its HPC center and help graduates find jobs in the HPC field, specifically HPC system administration.

Dirk Colby, director of HPC Studies for Michigan State University, discussed the high-performance initiatives at Michigan State University and his experiences teaching HPC using a flipped classroom, a method that involves introducing new material outside of the classroom. Aaron Weeden and Skylar Thompson described efforts by Shodor, a national resource for computational science education, to develop computing and HPC learning modules and their Bootable Cluster CD platform for teaching HPC concepts. Kate Cahill from the Ohio Supercomputer Center spoke about the education and outreach activities facilities by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program and the HPC knowledge and curriculum repository housed at HPC University, a virtual organization that shares educational and training materials.

Jeremy Evert of Southwestern Oklahoma State University described his experiences teaching HPC, competitive learning and student placement in HPC internships at NASA and the National Weather Service. Evert also described the positive experiences his students gained through the prestigious Blue Waters Student Internship Program.

Encouraging training and participation

The workshop highlighted a variety of training pathways, including TU’s high-performance computing minor, and HPC University’s efforts to collect high-performance computing information. Associate Professor Peter J. Hawrylak presented information on TU’s high-performance computing minor, which provides students in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences with a roadmap to obtain a solid foundation in high-performance computing during their four-year bachelor’s degree. The annual Oklahoma High-Performance Computing Competition, hosted by TU each spring, also was suggested as an opportunity for competitive learning in the HPC field.

The workshop covered examples of curriculum development and outreach efforts geared toward offering interested students with opportunities in HPC, computational science and data science fields. The venue supported lengthy and in-depth discussions of the topics, resulting in concrete ideas and plans to expand efforts and build collaboration to strengthen talent generation pathways in academia. All workshop attendees left the workshop with a list of ideas on how to improve HPC education and outreach at their home institutions.

The workshop was made possible with support from TU, the National Science Foundation, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, Shodor and the National Computational Science Institute.

Tandy School of Computer Science hosts fourth annual high-performance computing competition

On April 13, The University of Tulsa College of Engineering and Natural Sciences and Tandy School of Computer Science hosted the Fourth Annual Oklahoma High-Performance Computing Competition on the TU campus. The event challenged 36 students from local high schools, community colleges, technical schools and universities to demonstrate their skills in high-performance computing. Five institutions participated this year.

Congratulations to the following division winners and their faculty advisers:

High School First Place – Programming Track 1

Moore-Norman Technical School

2-Year College First Place – Programming Track 1

Moore-Norman Technical School

Undergraduate First Place – Programming Track 1

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Second Place
The University of Oklahoma

Undergraduate First Place – Programming Track 2

Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Graduate First Place – Programming Track 1

University of Central Oklahoma

Graduate First Place – Programming Track 2

The University of Oklahoma

Second Place
The University of Tulsa

Many industries face a shortage of professionals with high-performance computing skills, which will play a central role in future technological developments. TU’s competition encourages students to learn about the supercomputing skillset [HM3] and pursue careers in this growing field. In an effort to help meet industry demands, the Tandy School of Computer Science also created a minor in high-performance computing.

high-performance computingSince its inception, the competition has generated significant interest across Oklahoma, and student participants have been awarded prestigious internships with BlueWaters, NASA and the National Weather Service. Recent Tandy graduates are employed at super-computer centers across the United States. “Oklahoma has a large number of high-performance computing resources and experts and TU is a leader in the area of high-performance computing education,” said Associate Professor Peter J. Hawrylak.

Event sponsors included the Tulsa section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The competition was organized by TU associate professors Peter J. Hawrylak and Mauricio Papa and Tandy Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology John Hale.

Event organizers would like to thank the IEEE Tulsa section for sponsoring lunch at the competition.

Samuel Taylor receives Goldwater Scholarship

University of Tulsa junior Samuel Taylor has been selected as a 2019 Goldwater Scholar and is TU’s 64th student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. This award honors Senator Barry Goldwater and was designed to encourage outstanding college sophomores and juniors to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of this type in these fields.

samuel taylorTaylor is majoring in computer science and mathematics. He is a National Merit Scholar, a member of the TU Honors Program and participates in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. Taylor not only excels academically but lives out other aspects of the True Blue identity by giving back to the community. For more than a year, he has mentored high school students in a local Tulsa FIRST Robotics team. Taylor also helped design a bubble machine with the university organization Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU), which aids children with special needs.

From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship. Only 496 were selected. Many of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, including Taylor, have already published research and presented their work.

Taylor plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in cognitive science with an emphasis in computer science. This will include researching computational models of biological and artificial cognition to see how these models could inform better adaptive artificial intelligence. Ultimately, he hopes to teach and research within academia.

TU’s Conner Bender awarded Truman Scholarship for public service

University of Tulsa computer science senior Conner Bender has received the honorable Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers in public service leadership. The scholarship, awarded in 2019 to 62 students from 58 institutions nationwide, is the hallmark of the Truman Foundation, the nation’s official living memorial to the 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Bender will receive a maximum of $30,000 for graduate study.

conner bender
Bender with Jim Sorem, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences

Originally from Jenks, Bender is double majoring in computer science and mathematics, while earning his master’s degree in cyber operations. He will graduate with his bachelor’s degrees in May 2019 and continue his graduate degree at TU next fall. He serves as TU’s student body president, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, president of Future Alumni Council, and founding president of the Rotaract Club. Bender is a Presidential Scholar, Stanford University Innovation Fellow, orientation leader, university ambassador, triathlete and marathon runner-up.

Bender used his computer science skills to establish a meal swipe donation program and was awarded the prestigious TU Medicine Wheel Award for Community Service. He is a two-time teaching assistant for the TU President Gerard Clancy and one of 10 U.S. undergraduates selected for a Fulbright Summer Institute in Scotland. Bender was named 2019 Greek Man of the Year and has held several internships and research positions with the U.S. government. He created a free iPad app that enhances word association and motor skills for people with disabilities and at Harvard, helped develop an emotion-based text reading application for Android users who are blind or visually impaired.

Bender is a local nonprofit board member, a cappella singer in Phi Mu Alpha, ministry team member for Reformed University Fellowship and was selected to lobby for the Fraternal Governmental Relations Coalition. He also serves as the Philanthropy Committee undergraduate representative, ritual peer for the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and vice president of TU’s chapter of Sigma Chi. Bender is a member of the Diversity Action Committee, Foundation of Excellence Committee, University Council and Student Conduct Board. He also is a notary public and is in the process of obtaining his private pilot license.

This year’s Truman Scholars were selected from 840 candidates nominated by 346 colleges and universities — the largest and one of the most competitive application pools in Truman Scholar history. Finalists were chosen by 16 independent selection panels based on their academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.

 

Computer science faculty awarded patent for cybersecurity technology

Three faculty members from The University of Tulsa’s Tandy School of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for their innovation in cybersecurity technology. Tandy Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology John Hale, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Peter Hawrylak and Associate Professor of Computer Science Mauricio Papa have developed technology termed a “Compliance Graph” to help industries and utilities better manage their regulatory requirements and ensure they are staying up-to-date on required inspections and maintenance. This routine activity is critical in many industries, especially utilities, where non-compliance can result in major fines or the closure of plants.

The Compliance Graph system provides formally validated recommendations about these requirements, including a detailed description of how each requirement is met or not met. The patent, U.S. Patent Number 10,185,833, describes a process by which a user can efficiently determine whether modifications to a plant will result in the plant no longer complying with regulations. For cases where non-compliance is determined, the invention will further identify what the issues are and provide insight on how to fix those items.

This technology was developed as part of a TU cybersecurity research grant, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The process can be applied by any company requiring compliance with a set of regulatory guidelines, including finance, insurance and utility companies. Current compliance efforts are quite involved and require significant amounts of time and man-hours to complete while prone to errors and overlooked items. This often leaves companies playing catchup. However, the new TU technology will alleviate that by reducing the time and cost needed to evaluate regulatory compliance, thereby enabling companies to take pro-active steps to address issues before they become major problems. The Compliance Graph technology is available for license from The University of Tulsa.

 

True Cybersecurity: TU hosts Tulsa Cyber Summit, wins CCDC regional 

Students, executives and innovators convened in Tulsa March 24-26 for a weekend of events centered on competition and exploration in the field of cybersecurity. The True Blue University of Tulsa community was instrumental in hosting the Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), followed by the first-ever Tulsa Cyber Summit, a national cybersecurity conference for students, executives, entrepreneurs and innovators.

2019 Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

CCDC team
TU’s 2019 CCDC team

TU’s CCDC team won first place at the southwest regional event, hosted on the TU campus, and will advance to the national competition April 23-25 in Orlando, Florida. CCDC gives college students the opportunity to apply real-world technical and business skills before graduating. Simulated situations prepare students for real scenarios they will encounter later in their careers as each team is responsible for securing, managing and maintaining the network infrastructure of a fabricated small business.

TU’s 2019 CCDC team members include Team Captain Kyle Cook (computer science), Michaela Conn and Brian Kwiecinski (computer information systems), Abraham Habib (information technology) and Tabor Kvasnicka, Hannah Robbins, Rachel Porter and Meaghan Longenberger (computer science). Sal Aurigemma, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, is the team’s coach.

Tulsa Cyber Summit

During the same weekend, TU, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Cox Business teamed up to welcome cybersecurity specialists and innovators from around the country to the Tulsa Cyber Summit. The conference featured high-profile keynotes including former CIA Director John Brennan, Facebook Security Director Aanchal Gupta, Team8 Founder and CEO Nadav Zafrir and more than 40 other leaders and executives in the cybersecurity industry.

Hosted at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tulsa, the event included breakout sessions centered around leadership and technology in the cyber sector as well as trends and challenges in the areas of transportation, energy, electricity, finance and IoT governance.

Former CIA Director John Brennan

“The University of Tulsa has been a leader in cybersecurity for more than two decades,” said Tyler Moore, Tandy Associate Professor of Cyber Security & Information Assurance. “Until now, we’ve been somewhat of a best-kept secret. Many of the students and alumni we’ve trained have gone on to the highest levels of government service, academia and industry. There’s a tremendous opportunity to leverage the expertise and talent that we have at the university in building a future economy that is diversified and that can make a significant difference to our nation’s security.”

Facebook Security Director Anchal Gupta

Cybersecurity in Tulsa

TU’s partnership with GKFF and Cox Business elevated Tulsa’s national exposure as a center of cybersecurity education, entrepreneurship and innovation. The Tulsa Cyber Summit enhances the city’s growing community of energy, manufacturing, technology and aerospace industries.

TU’s Tandy School of Computer Science holds three cyber designations by the National Security Agency and produces many of the nation’s top experts in cyber operations, cyber defense and research while preparing students to fill critical roles at organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense, NSA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation and National Institute of Justice. The university also offers several computer science and cybersecurity degree options, including an exclusive online master’s program for professionals.

“Tulsa is putting its name on the map and has for many years as far as being a center of excellence on cybersecurity and IT matters,” Brennan said. “I believe that academic environment is so important because the next generation of Americans, the students at The University of Tulsa, are the ones that need to pick up this mantel and address the challenges that we face as a nation.”

Thousands of cybersecurity jobs that require the skills of a qualified cyber professional remain unfilled across the United States, and the U.S. military’s cyber defense capabilities indicate areas of weakness in protecting the country from potential adversaries. As the backdrop for the new Tulsa Enterprise for Cyber Innovation, Talent and Entrepreneurship Cyber District, the city of Tulsa is primed to prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Stay up-to-date with our True Blue stories or read the Tulsa World’s coverage of the Tulsa Cyber Summit.

TU alumni John and Crystal Lister battle cyber threats

As University of Tulsa alumni, John and Crystal Lister are exploring the exciting career possibilities that a degree from the TU Tandy School of Computer Science provides. The husband and wife are members of the senior leadership team at Global Professional Services Group (GPSG) in Reston, Virginia. Although GPSG is primarily a recruiting company, John and Crystal implement their cyber capabilities to grow the enterprise and flex their cyber muscles in the digital security sector. They trace the expertise and skillset required to accomplish such a task back to Tulsa and their experience with cybersecurity projects at TU.

Learn more about a graduate degree in cybersecurity or computer science at TU.

Finding the TU Cyber Corps program

listerThe Listers first met while taking courses at Tulsa Community College and later married as undergraduate students at the University of Oklahoma. John was recruited to the TU Cyber Corps program, turning down a job in Australia, to begin his master’s degree. Crystal’s background in business and finance initially led her to a job at Boeing Co., where she also became interested in Cyber Corps.

“I started reflecting on how I could give back to my country — I was in the eighth grade at the time of the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Building bombing, and I was an undergrad during 9/11,” Crystal said.

Both Crystal and John taught computer classes at Moore Norman Technology Center to support themselves as undergraduates at OU. Their patriotism combined with a natural passion for understanding the intersection of the human element and technology led them to TU. They completed master of science degrees in computer science and fulfilled the Cyber Corps professional segment with federal service.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to use the brand-new skills TU had just developed to help the government safeguard assets for the American people and to strengthen operations to better defend the country,” John said about his federal service as a cyber officer.

For more than 10 years, Crystal also served in cyber threats and counterintelligence, informing senior policymakers about technical risks to infrastructure and operations.

“I was able to use a lot of the background from OU and TU blended together to provide insights on technical threats,” Crystal said. “My time here at TU instantly equipped me to hit the ground running and start making that contribution to our country.”

Careers at GPSG

The couple leverages their computer science and business backgrounds in the private sector today. John, vice president of cyber capabilities, and Crystal, senior director, insider and cyber threats, are instrumental in helping GPSG clients understand cybersecurity vulnerabilities and develop custom security programs.

lister“We’ll help a company transition to the Cloud or find encryption or data protection solutions to protect them against nonstate hackers and more stealthy, persistent adversaries,” John said.

Crystal oversees GPSG’s internal insider threat risk management program and engages with executive clients on cybersecurity consulting, developing methodologies to help clients move securely to Cloud solutions, protect data and set up insider risk programs. Her team has created an interactive scenarios training curriculum on prevention, detection and response of insider threats for clients.

TU the foundation of their success

listerCrystal says TU courses such as digital forensics prepared her for the career she’s built today. “I loved everything about it,” she said. “It helped me become a leader later, managing targeting, technical digital media exploitation teams and looking for key insights to support our policymakers.”

John said their student experience in Cyber Corps involved incredibly unique partnerships with public service organizations such as the Tulsa Police Department and federal units. They contributed to solving criminal cases, analyzing cell phone forensics and other critical operations. Those hands-on components laid the groundwork for successful ventures later in their careers.

“The opportunities we had here at TU to collaborate with the technical community helped us become leaders in the cyber industry,” he said.