MSU reaffirmed as cyber research center of excellence

Contact: Jim Laird

Federal officials have reaffirmed Mississippi State as a leading institution for cyber security education and research.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have recertified the university as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research. The designation is valid through 2021.

The designation comes after extensive work by faculty in the departments of computer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and management and information systems.

David A. Dampier, a professor of computer science and engineering at the land-grant institution, led the effort.

"Mississippi State is among an elite group of schools helping the nation meet its need for highly-skilled cyber professionals," he said.

Of note, the university also holds national Center of Academic Excellence designations in cyber operations and in information assurance education. MSU is the only institution of higher education in the state to attain all three designations.

The CAE program was started in 1999 to reduce the vulnerability of the nation's cyber and network infrastructure by promoting information assurance in higher education and producing more graduates with the background and expertise in computer science and cyber defense disciplines.

In addition to Dampier, the MSU team which worked to attain recertification included, from computer science and engineering, Wesley McGrew and Mahalingam Ramkumar; from electrical and computer engineering, Tommy Morris; and from management and information systems, Robert Crossler and Merrill Warkentin.

The university's cyber security capabilities include four dedicated research centers: the Center for Computer Security Research, the National Forensics Training Center, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Center, and the newly created Distributed Analytics and Security Institute.

Additionally, MSU's cyber security capacity is enhanced by many faculty holding U.S. government security clearances ranging from secret to top secret. Many students in the program also maintain active clearances.

Earlier this year, the university's cybersecurity courses and degree programs were ranked among the top three institutions in the U.S. for academic excellence and practical relevance in a Hewlett Packard-sponsored survey by the Ponemon Institute. Only the University of Texas at San Antonio and Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, ranked higher at first and second, respectively.

Since 2001, MSU has been funded by both the National Science Foundation and the NSA to produce security engineers for government service under Cyber Corps scholarship programs, and has produced more than 100 students who are destined for government service.

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