Professor, students react to the new department
BY BRAD BYRNE, STAFF WRITER
Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering has been approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to create a department of cyber security engineering, the first of its kind in the country.
Officially established March 1, the department will host 500 undergraduate students currently working toward Bachelor of Science degrees in cyber security engineering.
The interim director will be Duminda Wijesekera, who is a current professor of computer science within the Volgenau School of Engineering.
“We ran a very successful [bachelor’s] degree in cyber security engineering for five years and have seen a remarkable growth in environment,” Wijesekera said. “Based on this growth, a [master’s] degree has been proposed and is pending SCHEV approval. Having two degrees provides a sound basis to form a department. We are the first in the nation, and we know of other universities that are creating cyber security departments.”
According to the Volgenau School of Engineering, students who earn this degree will be uniquely positioned for high-demand careers protecting physical systems from cyber attacks.
“In [the] future, [the program] is expected to grow both in teaching, research and outreach capabilities,” Wijesekera explained. “We have already published the syllabus for the undergraduate degree and plan to publish the pending MS-CYSE anytime now.” MS-CYSE is the acronym for the masters program in cyber security engineering.
Shareen Shaik, a bioengineering major, thinks this new expansion will be good for students.
“I think it’s beneficial because it creates dialogue in the community for expansions of other engineering-related concentrations,” Shaik said. “I know that personally, with my major being bioengineering, that they are looking to add more areas of focus for students because it’s still a relatively new field.”
The goal is for students to combine different areas of expertise such as engineering, computer science and statistics together with cybersecurity.
Students will also learn in a variety of labs using their computational foundation to solve problems.
Mechanical engineering major Ashley Kong believes that this new department will bring new students to Mason.
“I like how the [Volgenau] School of Engineering is expanding their engineering department to cyber security,” Kong said. “I think this is good because it will attract different types of people to come to Mason. It would also help people who are thinking about going into the cyber security workforce, which is a big draw for students who want to come to Mason.”
Kong also stated that she hopes cyber security engineering is incorporated into basic, introductory-level computer science courses to give students a taste of what it’s like in the engineering field.
The curriculum for this new degree will advance hardware and software security in areas such as health, finance, 5G cellular networks, supply chain, logistics, infrastructure, autonomous vehicles and smart cities.