computer science

Collegiate cyber squad to compete at NCCDC

The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably changed the spring semester, but TU’s collegiate cyber students and faculty continue to actively and creatively look for ways to make the best of the situation. Many of the spring events and competitions continued as planned, just in a new, digital-only format.

TU to compete at NCCDC after winning SWCCDC regional

The Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (SWCCDC) at TU, was originally scheduled for March and temporarily postponed due to COVID-19. But after a few adjustments, faculty and students rallied to attend the event in a virtual realm; university-level students competed Saturday, April 11. The TU team won first place and will compete in the National CCDC virtual event May 22-23.

Meet the TU 2020 CCDC team and see their personalized trading cards

CCDC teams exercise both technical and business skills while focusing on the operational aspects of managing and protecting an existing simulated corporate network infrastructure. A traditional CCDC regional and national competition is an intense in-person team experience. The team works hard on coordinating activities and communication in a fast-paced environment of relentless network-based attacks while responding to continual business tasks. TU’s team is led by faculty adviser Sal Aurigemma, Edward E. and Helen T. Bartlett Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems.

“Moving the competition completely online keeps the same demanding expectations while removing the ability to share vital non-verbal communication cues that all great teams build by working together over time,” Aurigemma explained. “Communicating will be more difficult, and more important than ever. Team captain Hannah Robbins has done a truly phenomenal job leading the team through all the required technical training throughout the year. The dedication, flexibility, and professionalism of TU’s CCDC team is something I am truly proud to be a part of.”

Robbins worked with the team to test multiple collaboration platforms, adjusting and fine-tuning the communication protocols that the team relies on to function.

“Not being face to face in the same room competing is a new experience for us this year, but the changes the competition has made to adapt to the circumstances have kept the difficulty consistent,” Robbins said.

The group reviewed its past performances at competitions and other virtual events to determine what worked and what didn’t. “The pandemic has given us a chance to step back and really examine our strategies, and we’ve made some changes that will give us a new perspective on our plan of attack from the start of the competition.”

Capture the Flag for TPS

In other cyber competitions, computer science student Tabor Kvasnicka is a perfect example of how innovative ideas can help move a plan forward. TU hosts an online Capture the Flag event every November and in the middle of COVID-19 social distancing measures, Kvasnicka decided to offer that same opportunity to students in the Tulsa Public School system.

Kvasnicka describes the event as a “Jeopardy!-style version of Capture the Flag, where teams solve cybersecurity challenges to reach a string of text called a ‘flag,’ which awards them points.”

But capturing these cyber flags is not easy, and the teams must be well-versed in a variety of topics such as PWN, reverse engineering, cryptography, web and other emerging areas of computer science. The event is tentatively scheduled to start on April 13, and the end date is yet to be determined.

CSGS

Another great way the TU community is demonstrating its resilience to proceed with regularly scheduled events is the computer simulation and gaming program’s Computer Simulation and Gaming Conference (CSGC). Originally planned before the pandemic arrived for the weekend of April 17-18, CSGC was quickly transitioned to a virtual competition by Chapman Instructor in Computer Science Akram Taghavi-Burris and her students; all speakers presented online to a worldwide audience of all ages.

 

Shifting the delivery required a lot of flexibility, Taghavi-Burris said: “Our CSGC 2020 event volunteers, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors were quick to respond and encourage the move to a virtual event. While this is a new platform for CSGC, an online conference does have its advantages. We saw an increase of out-of-state attendees, and even those from other countries. Again, our student volunteers have been tremendous and even worked out what tools would be best to stream and keep in touch with our attendees. We’ve even set up a CSGC Discord server on their recommendation and it’s been a great way to communicate with everyone involved.”

While there’s no denying that the semester has been disrupted by COVID-19, the global health crisis has also illuminated the heart, drive, and passion of TU students and faculty. Their ability to revise plans and adapt to constant change ensures the show goes on.

TU, Noodle Partners team up to offer online degrees

The University of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s highest-ranked national university, is launching an online MBA and elevating its online master’s in cybersecurity with Noodle Partners, the fastest-growing online program manager.

Increasingly, adult learners are opting for programs that fit their busy lives. TU is working to improve the accessibility of their programs by meeting those students where they are — online.

The online MBA offers a part-time option to prepare students for career advancement in the private and public sectors as well as for positions of leadership and responsibility in business and society.

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing job sectors in the United States; the BLS projects a 32% increase in employment from 2018 to 2028, more than six times higher than the average for careers in the U.S. For 20 years, TU has been one of just a handful of institutions designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education.

“The University of Tulsa is excited to leverage the resources and expertise of Noodle Partners to further develop these two online degree programs and meet the needs of students seeking a research university-level education outside of a traditional classroom setting,” said Interim President Janet Levit. “TU’s MBA and MS in Cybersecurity attract highly motivated working professionals who will use the degrees to advance their careers and support the nation’s thriving business and technology industries.”

TU’s online MBA program features readily available student access to top-notch faculty along with small class sizes that promote participation and interaction among peers and faculty in the online environment. The degree is ideal for online learners seeking a flexible schedule that allows them to balance work and other priorities. Students who enroll in two courses per semester can complete the program in 24 months and receive career placement assistance from the Business Career Center.

The online MS in Cybersecurity requires 30 credits to graduate. The program offers an entirely online curriculum, along with an option to take immersive courses in which students spend one week on campus completing hands-on, intensive training guided by faculty. The program is designed to be completed in 24 months, and students can continue to work as full-time professionals while completing the degree.

“TU is making an excellent strategic move by launching these innovative online programs,” said John Katzman, CEO of Noodle Partners. “We have total confidence in our partnership with TU, and we’re excited to see how its incoming cohorts of students leverage their degrees in the workforce.”

About Noodle Partners
Founded by a team of education and technology veterans, Noodle Partners creates innovative online and hybrid programs while improving traditional classroom models. Noodle Partners has the capability to work with universities on every aspect of building a certificate or degree program that they choose—marketing, student recruitment, enrollment, curriculum design, student engagement, support services, graduate placement, and alumni engagement—and provides a high level of fit and finish. For more information, visit noodle-partners.com or follow us on Twitter @Noodle_Partners or LinkedIn.

Nationally recognized TU cyber programs expanding in 2020

The University of Tulsa’s national reputation as a leader in computer science and cybersecurity education spans more than two decades, and in 2020, TU is poised to launch a new wave of opportunities that will benefit students, faculty, local educators and the entire cybersecurity industry.

Cyber Summit 2020

TU cyberLast year, TU introduced a cybersecurity conference unlike any other in the country. The Tulsa Cyber Summit welcomed students, executives, entrepreneurs and innovators for high-profile keynotes such as former CIA Director John Brennan, Facebook Security Director Aanchal Gupta and Team8 Founder and CEO Nadav Zafrir, as well as workshops and panel discussions with more than 40 leaders and executives in the cybersecurity industry.

Organizers are preparing for an even bigger conference March 22-24, 2020, at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Tulsa. The event will spotlight Tulsa’s emerging cyber industry and the valuable relationship TU holds with local and national cyber partners. Learn more about this year’s program and register to attend at utulsa.edu/cybercon.

“This year’s Cyber Summit is multi-focal,” said event organizer and Tandy School of Computer Science Chair John Hale. “We will continue the dual leadership and technology tracks, but also are incorporating a mini-track dedicated to cyber insurance, a thread of talks that will be of special relevance to small and medium-sized enterprises, and a panel on gender and diversity issues in the cyber workforce. In addition, we will welcome a group of national cyber experts as this year’s keynote speakers.”

TU-Team8 Cyber Fellows

Also new in 2020, TU is joining forces with the Tel Aviv, Israel-based cyber venture creation firm Team8 to establish the TU-Team8 Cyber Fellows program for doctoral students in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. The program is designed for students seeking to advance cyber R&D across security, big data and artificial intelligence, creating new methods and commercially viable solutions that enable a secure and productive all-digital future.

TU cyberFunded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the cyber fellowship program provides full financial support for 10 STEM-related doctoral degrees at TU to develop research projects that have the potential to fundamentally impact the world. Students receive free tuition, an annual living stipend/salary, TU graduate student benefits and a $20,000 bonus if they stay in Tulsa for at least two years after graduation.

TU’s rich history in cyber education and expertise combined with Team8’s ability to identify big problems and assemble the team, ecosystem and capital to drive a solution will prepare students with the cyber resilience and data science capabilities to enact a worldwide digital transformation.

The Ph.D. program officially begins in fall 2020. Students can apply by contacting Rose Gamble, Tandy Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, at gamble@utulsa.edu.

MS Cybersecurity Online

TU cyberTU’s master of science in cybersecurity online degree has produced its first two graduates. Aaron Arneson, a U.S. Air Force civilian employee, and Jon Clemenson, director of information security at 10th Magnitude, graduated in December 2019 and will use their TU graduate degrees to advance their cybersecurity careers. The TU online program is designed for working professionals seeking to gain the skills and expertise necessary to thrive in the growing cyber field. The curriculum can be completed in 24 months, and students can continue to work as full-time professionals while completing their degree.

To apply to the program or for more details, contact Randy Roberts, program business manager, at 918-631-6523 or rsr1451@utulsa.edu.

CyberCity

Just announced, TU will debut the multi-year CyberCity program in the summer of 2020 to infuse cyber education into every school and eventually every classroom in the Tulsa metropolitan area. The initiative will energize a generation of students to transform the city and its economy.

CyberCity also is sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and will be led by Sujeet Shenoi, professor of computer science and chemical engineering and founder of TU’s Cyber Corps, along with Kimberly Adams, Chapman Senior Instructor of Mathematics. Four week-long workshops will be held in June and July for elementary and middle school teachers. Enrollment in each week’s workshop will cap at 36. Groups of teachers from Tulsa-area schools are encouraged to participate in a workshop to create critical mass, foster collaborative efforts during the academic year and add cyber curricula and activities to their schools.

Workshop topics will include cybersecurity concepts and best practices, online safety, cyber ethics, computer gaming, the Internet of Things, robot and drone programming as well as the critical infrastructure, cryptography and coding involved in Python programming language. Each teacher will receive a $600 stipend, Raspberry Pi with a keyboard and mouse, flash drive with instructional materials, lockbox kit and the book “Cracking Codes with Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Cyphers.”

“We envision enabling a generation of cyber-savvy ‘tinkerers’ and innovators capable of changing the city’s economic base,” Shenoi said. “This is something we should do if we want to change our city.”

TU cyberTU will support teachers throughout the school year with an interactive web platform to share ideas and ask questions, creating an online community that fosters collaboration in developing lesson plans and other learning materials.

Find more information and sign up for the program by contacting Kimberly Adams at kimberly-adams@utulsa.edu or Sujeet Shenoi at sujeet@utulsa.edu.

SIDEBAR: Competitive student learning events

For undergraduate and graduate cyber students, competitive events are an annual highlight of the academic year that demonstrate their talent, skillsets and potential as future professionals.

2019

In the summer of 2019, TU students collaborated with Professor of Computer Science Sandip Sen to design, develop, implement, test and field an agent that could perform repeated negotiations with human partners to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. The agent, named Draft Agent based on the core negotiating protocol used, was entered into the Human-Agent League of the Tenth International Automated Negotiating Agents Competition at IJCAI 2019, Aug. 10-16, in Macao, China. One of TU’s two entries was named a finalist and later the official winner, receiving a cash prize of $250.

TU students finished second at the 2019 Central Region Collegiate Pen Testing Competition (CPTC) Oct. 12-13 at Tennessee Tech. The event focuses on improving the offensive security posture of a fictitious organization and reporting on risks in a manner that is similar to a real professional environment. Students participate as part of an in-house red team, a consulting firm providing penetration testing services or an information security analyst to hone the technical, communication and collaboration skills they will use as professionals.

On Nov. 11, a group of students participated in the south-central regional event for the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Both TU teams finished at or near the top of the Oklahoma rankings and in the top third of the 60 total teams that competed. Team Aleph Naught placed first in the state and #11 in the region, and team Turing Tested received third place in Oklahoma and #20 in the region.

Nov. 29-Dec. 1, the Tandy School of Computer Science virtually hosted the TU Capture the Flag (CTF) information security competition. Around 1,000 teams from around the globe participated in the community-oriented event that featured high school and collegiate brackets. Capture The information security competition requires teams to solve a series of challenges to prepare students for careers in digital security.

2020

In 2020, TU students will attend the Information Security Talent Search Feb. 28-30 at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. The event is an annual three-day cyber attack/defend competition, challenging students to solve scenarios in computing security, system administration, networking and programming. Competitors engage in code review, architecture design, incident response and policy writing while defending a student-built infrastructure.

One of the most anticipated student events of the year is the Southwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) Regional, March 20-22. Hosted on TU’s campus, the regional CCDC event requires students to assume administrative and protective duties for an existing “commercial” network. The eight regional CCDC winners will compete in the national competition April 16-18.

Other upcoming events include the AI, Creativity and Copyright conference March 27 and an annual high-performance computing competition on TU’s campus in April. The AI symposium will involve a panel discussion on the complicated idea of who owns copyright to the music an artificial intelligence system generates. This is complicated by the fact that machines cannot currently generate or own copyrights under U.S. law. The discussion will be followed by a hackathon in which student programmers create AI-driven music pieces. The event will conclude with a talk by one of the lead AI experts at Pandora music. Learn more about the event.

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.