FSU computer science wins $4.6M grant to support cybersecurity scholars

A new multimillion grant to the Florida State University Department of Computer Science will help dozens of students finance their education and help prepare them for careers in cybersecurity.

The National Science Foundation awarded the department a $4.6 million grant to help fund the education of students who are specifically pursuing cybersecurity studies. It is the largest grant in the department’s history.

The grant supports 64 graduate students and eight undergraduate students in their senior year. Students will receive an academic year stipend — $22,500 for undergraduates and $34,000 for graduate students — plus tuition, fees, a health insurance reimbursement and a $2,000 textbook allowance. Additionally, each student will be placed at a paid summer internship with a federal government agency.

“This gives students the opportunity to go to graduate school to develop analytical and computational skills needed to protect the safety and security of our nation’s infrastructure against threats from intruders, hackers and nation-state actors,” said Mike Burmester, professor of computer science and the faculty member leading the work on the grant. “The educational program encourages inquisitiveness and out-of-the-box thinking. Most of all, it is fun, challenging — you never get bored — and guarantees a great career.”

FSU’s cybersecurity program in computer science was established in 2001 and offers a master’s of science with courses such as computer security, network security, computer and network administration and reverse engineering. The program is also designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence for its work in cyber defense.

The federal government has noted the need for more trained cybersecurity experts to keep pace with other countries and organizations, and the National Science Foundation has made more grants available for researchers to help train the next generation of scientists.

“The cybersecurity program would allow students to do challenging work in an area that is continuously evolving and to develop skills for a great career,” Burmester said. “There is a severe shortage of cybersecurity analysts, and the importance of their work is emphasized almost every day in the national press.”

Burmester said that he hopes the financial incentive will help the department be more competitive in attracting top students to the program and generally draw more attention to the program. 

“The multidisciplinary aspect of cybersecurity combined with its unique challenges makes this program so attractive,” Burmester said. “This is one side of the coin. The other side is that it pays all of your expenses and a great stipend.”