Tandy School of Computer Science - College of Engineering & Natural Sciences

Tandy School of Computer Science

Computer science major awarded Department of Defense scholarship

Man in blue button up shirt posing for a headshot in front of a book shelf
Zachary Gaskins

Computer science major Zachary Gaskins has been awarded a Department of Defense (DOD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship. This highly selective award will allow him to finish his education free of financial worry as it provides full tuition plus an annual stipend to cover the cost of educational expenses. “I’ve always wanted a scholarship like this,” said Gaskins; “I originally looked into the Cyber Corps Scholarship Program at TU, but found that my interests lie more with software development than cyber security.”

The SMART scholarship also provides a guaranteed yearly summer internship starting in 2023 at Tinker Airforce Base, Gaskins’ sponsoring DOD facility, which is located near Oklahoma City. Gaskins says that the internship will give him the hands-on experience he needs in order to better decide on the areas of study he would like to focus on back at The University of Tulsa. In addition, the scholarship guarantees a job at Tinker Airforce Base once Gaskins is ready to begin his career. Until then, Gaskins is working hard to finish his degree and pursue an all-expenses-paid graduate degree in computer science, thanks to yet another perk of the SMART scholarship.

A thorough education

After completing high school in Bristow in 2019, Gaskins enrolled at the Oklahoma State University Institution of Technology (OSUIT), where he received his associate of applied technology degree in 2021. While at OSUIT, Gaskins volunteered through the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and work-studied at the campus food pantry, Pete’s Pantry. He enjoyed his courses in information technology, but Gaskins ultimately decided the curriculum was not as in-depth as he wanted. As a result, he transferred to TU in the fall of 2021 in search of a thorough academic experience. Gaskins aims to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in 2024.

At TU, Gaskins has received unwavering support from Assistant Professor Vidhyashree Nagaraju, who first introduced him to the SMART scholarship and wrote one of his recommendation letters. “Zach’s accomplishment is the result of his high aspirations and his dedication to achieving the goals he set for himself,” said Nagaraju. “He is the first member of his family to work towards a graduate degree and I am confident he will continue to realize success in his academic journey. I am also certain Zach will inspire future generations and lead his fellow TU colleagues to aspire to similar outstanding achievements.”

Are you interested in a fascinating, well-paying job in the computer science and information technology industry? Then check out the Tandy School of Computer Science today to see all the great learning and career pathways!

MS cybersecurity alumni benefit from online degree option

The University of Tulsa’s master of science in cybersecurity online program graduated its first two students in December 2019, and both alumni are using the valuable new graduate degree to enrich their careers and contribute to Oklahoma’s security industry.

The MS online cybersecurity degree is designed for today’s working professional who is interested in taking his or cyber career to new heights. The entire curriculum is offered online but students have the option to attend a week of immersive courses on campus, involving hands-on training with faculty. Students can complete the flexible program in 24 months while continuing their full-time job responsibilities.

Learn more about TU’s online M.S. in cybersecurity degree.

What distinguishes TU’s online cyber graduate degree from similar programs is the fact that courses are taught by nationally respected cybersecurity experts who have earned the highest degrees in their field. These specialists regularly engage in critical research projects on a global scale while ensuring online students receive the same level of quality instruction as those students learning in a traditional classroom setting.

cybersecurity alumniJon Clemenson works for 10th Magnitude in Tulsa, a company that helps organizations establish and manage their IT infrastructures using Microsoft’s public cloud, Azure. “We cost effectively manage, operate and secure our customer’s infrastructure in Azure.” he explained.

Clemenson served 11 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force and earned his undergraduate degree from Park University, a satellite campus for military students in Parkville, Missouri. When he learned of TU’s online graduate program, he took advantage of the opportunity to glean expertise from the faculty. “Some of the classes were technical and others took a more general approach to the security field,” Clemenson said. “The psychology courses led by Professor Brummel involved an interesting perspective on the field of cybersecurity and provided an opportunity to align technical topics with business priorities.”

After more than a decade of military service that prepared him for a career on the “outside” through leadership experiences and solid technical training, Clemenson said his TU education was icing on the cake. “I want to use my master’s degree as a springboard to keep learning, collaborate with others in the community, grow professionally.” he stated. “Cybersecurity is my passion and where I want to focus in the future.”

Aaron Arneson was hired as a U.S. Air Force civilian employee at Tinker A.F.B. in Oklahoma City after completing his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Oklahoma State University. He said TU’s cyber education designations from the National Security Agency were appealing, and the convenient online curriculum fit his busy work schedule. “I enjoyed the interactive labs where faculty provided virtual machines for hands-on learning,” Arneson explained.

Responsive professors and the weeklong summer courses offered on campus highlighted his TU experience, allowing him to focus on penetration testing, vehicle security and cyber operations using the university’s closed Institute for Information Security (iSEC) network. “Professor Moore added an economic factor to our perspective of cybersecurity, and I’d never considered or encountered that before,” Arneson said. “I have a couple of cybersecurity certifications, and this degree helped me reinforce that foundational information. It’s a great program that introduces ways to look at cybersecurity in a different light.”

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.” 

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.