Computer science department awarded more than $3.2 million for student scholarships

Florida State University’s computer science department can now award more than $3.2 million in scholarships to students studying computer science, computer criminology, computational biology, information security and computer and network system administration.

Computer science faculty worked to secure federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. Scholarship money will be awarded to eligible bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree students, giving them financial security while working toward careers the U.S. job market needs to fill to stay competitive in the world economy.

“The demand in the job market for employees with computer-related degrees is very good,” said Robert van Engelen, professor and chair of the Florida State Department of Computer Science. “The labor shortage shows that this field offers a great career opportunity.”

This labor shortage is especially acute in the realm of security and information assurance, van Engelen said. Data from the 2011-2012 Taulbee Survey, the principal source of information on the enrollment, production and employment of doctorates in computer science and computer engineering, shows that nationwide, 1,929 students graduated with a doctorate in computer science — but only 69 of those students specialized in security.

Securing these grants is a lot of work for faculty, van Engelen said. They do it for the benefit of the students.

“We are fully cognizant of the financial difficulties that students have,” he said. “We want to make sure that students have the option to pursue a computer science degree at a great university.”

The grants awarded to the department are a GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) grant from the federal Department of Education; a National Science Foundation S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grant; and a National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service grant.

This is the second time the department applied for and received the GAANN grant, which is matched by Florida State, providing a total of more than $500,000 in funds thanks to principal and co-principal investigators and computer science professors Michael Mascagni and David Whalley.

This award supports up to five doctoral students each year for three years, covering 15 scholarship years of funding. The goal of the grant is to support students with excellent academic records and promise for a successful career in research and education.

The $603,000 NSF S-STEM grant, the first Florida State has ever received, offers scholarships to academically talented students with financial needs who are seeking a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree in computer science; a bachelor of science degree in computational biology; or a bachelor of science degree in computer criminology.

The award supports up to four years of scholarships for 15 to 16 students each year. Florida State received this award thanks to the efforts of computer science professors Andy Wang, principal investigator, and co-principals Gary Tyson, van Engelen, David Whalley and Zhenghao Zhang.

Lastly, the department received the National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service grant award to support graduate students. This more than $2.2 million grant supports a total of 30 scholarship years for students working toward a master’s in computer criminology or computer and network system administration. This scholarship complements the Scholarship for Service grant awarded in 2010 for $1,853,893, which runs until 2015.

These scholarships are also available to computer science seniors who commit to entering these advanced degree programs. The grant comes to Florida State thanks to the efforts of professors Mike Burmester, principal investigator, and co-principals Carter Hay of Florida State’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Xiuwen Liu and Whalley.

“We are providing students with the opportunity to strengthen the security of the United States,” van Engelen said. These students typically have jobs waiting for them after graduation, at the National Security Agency or other similar security organizations.

Overall, a computer science degree is a safe bet, van Engelen said.

“The current unemployment rate for jobs in this area is 3 percent or less,” compared with a national rate hovering around 7.3 percent, he noted.