New Approach to Cyber Security: NYU-Poly Educates Engineers to Think Like Policy Makers and Psychologists to Protect Cyberspace

National Science Foundation IGERT Grant to Establish Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

The Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) will launch an innovative graduate program to educate scientists and engineers to address 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 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 Graduate 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 will address 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 will address the balance between what is technologically feasible and what is acceptable within legal, political, economic and societal constraints. NYU-Poly is proud to be selected to lead the way toward this new paradigm for information security research and education.”

INSPIRE fellows will 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, beginning this fall.  Application forms will be posted at That 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 cyber security scholarship program is called ASPIRE, for A Scholarship for Service Partnership for Interdisciplinary Research and Education.

NYU-Poly was one of the earliest schools to introduce a cyber security 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 cyber security research.

About Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is one of New York City’s most comprehensive schools of engineering, applied sciences, technology, and research, and is rooted in a 156-year tradition of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship: i2e. The institution, founded in 1854, is one of the nation’s oldest private engineering schools. In addition to its main campus at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. NYU-Poly has centers in Long Island, Manhattan and Westchester County; globally, it has programs in Israel, China and will be an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi opening in autumn 2010.