National Science Foundation IGERT Grant Establishes Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

Nasir Memon

Nasir Memon

Last fall, NYU-Poly launched an innovative graduate program for scientists and engineers that will reconfigure/redefine the methods that are employed to evaluate the increasingly complex issues surrounding information security and privacy. A $2.85 million award from the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary training initiative, Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT), funds the program.

“Traditionally, engineers are taught to evaluate projects by technical standards alone, a narrow approach that is out of touch with today’s connected society,” said the initiative’s team leader, Nasir Memon, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and director of the Information Systems and Internet Security Lab. “For the scientists of tomorrow, social context will be a critical aspect of innovation.”

To reach beyond the technical approach, faculty and staff of New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, Leonard N. Stern School of Business and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, along with faculty of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will participate. Only NYU-Poly and Courant will grant degrees.

Called INSPIRE (Information Security and Privacy): An Interdisciplinary Research and Education Program, the program addresses the shortage of scientists and engineers versed in the interplay between information security and economics, psychology, public policy and law. INSPIRE graduates will be able to apply their understanding of these fields to develop technology solutions attuned to an increasing dependence on trustworthy information systems.

“Information systems are indispensible components of every aspect of our personal and professional lives,” said Kurt Becker, NYU-Poly associate provost for research and technology initiatives. “Protecting their integrity by authenticating content and ensuring seamless, fast, reliable and secure transmission of data and information is critical in areas including national security, personal safety and comfort, commerce and business.”

Becker added, “In the context of INSPIRE, faculty and doctoral students address the balance between what is technologically feasible and what is acceptable within legal, political, economic and societal constraints. NYU-Poly is proud to lead the way toward this new paradigm for information security research and education.”

INSPIRE fellows address some of the most pressing issues in information security, including identifying physical vulnerabilities in critical infrastructures such as IT networks and public utilities, developing new risk mitigation and information security models for enterprise and using human behavioral models to design end-user security solutions.

This is the first IGERT program award for NYU-Poly, and is projected to educate 25 doctoral fellows over the next five years. Application forms will be posted at http://crissp.poly.edu/inspire. This site also includes information about a similar NSF-funded program that provides scholarships and faculty support for undergraduates and master’s degree students at NYU-Poly and NYU. This cybersecurity scholarship program is called ASPIRE, a Scholarship for Service Partnership for Interdisciplinary Research and Education.

NYU-Poly was one of the earliest schools to introduce a cybersecurity program, receiving National Security Agency (NSA) approval nearly a decade ago. Designated as both a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Research by the NSA, the school houses a National Science Foundation-funded Information Systems and Internet Security (ISIS) Laboratory, the nerve center of cybersecurity research.