College of Engineering News

Search for academic director will begin later this year

Starnes Walker, founding director of the University of Delaware’s Cybersecurity Initiative (UDCSI), announced that he will step down from his post in September. He then will transition to a new role as chair of the UDCSI advisory council.

Before joining UD in 2014, Walker held Senior Executive Service positions in the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security, and in the intelligence community. His earlier industry posts included Morrison Knudsen’s vice president of technology and Phillips Petroleum’s senior research associate/fellow and corporate environmental director. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in physics from the University of California-Riverside and an honorary degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

“Starnes Walker has leveraged his experience and deep knowledge in cybersecurity to develop important connections that have helped to establish the University of Delaware as a hub of expertise and education in cybersecurity,” said Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are grateful for his vision and leadership as founding director for the Cybersecurity Initiative.”

UDCSI was established to complement a regional cybersecurity education initiative aimed at integrating educational and outreach programs in collaboration with partners from business, government and academia.

Since its founding, UDCSI has brought international attention to UD for cybersecurity.

The initiative partnered with SWIFT Institute and UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics to host a conference on cybersecurity issues impacting the global financial industry in 2015. A partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory brought the 10th anniversary meeting of IEEE Resilience Week to Delaware in 2017.

UDCSI has also facilitated access to resources that enhance the academic and research experiences of students and faculty at the university.

The group’s annual lecture series has attracted renowned security and defense experts to campus, including Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. UDCSI also assisted the Office of the Provost in awarding seed grants to support multidisciplinary research at UD on a range of issues, from bio-cybersecurity and drone navigation to the use of social robots for education.

UD’s academic offerings in cybersecurity have grown rapidly in recent years.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a master’s degree in cybersecurity with concentrations in secure software, secure systems, security analytics, and security management. The program is offered on campus and online.

A minor in cybersecurity is available to students in disciplines across the University, and a certificate in the fundamentals of cybersecurity provides advanced training to working professionals. This certificate is currently being offered to a cohort of U.S. Army engineers and scientists at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

UD students also have access to several other cybersecurity-related experiences, including participation in hacking competitions, collaboration with industry and government agencies, and involvement in faculty research.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated the University of Delaware a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) in 2016. The five-year designation is based on the university meeting stringent CAE criteria and mapping curricula to a core set of cyber defense knowledge units.

“We have seen tremendous enthusiasm from students and industry alike for our academic offerings in cybersecurity,” Ogunnaike said. “To stay ahead of this growing demand, we are renewing our focus on the high-quality curriculum and related educational activities that prepare our students for the 21st century workforce. We are also redoubling our efforts in interdisciplinary research activities that will advance national and international capabilities.”

A search for a full-time academic director will begin this year. In the meantime, Professor Nii Attoh-Okine, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will serve as interim academic director.

Attoh-Okine is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Civil Engineering and Building Materials, associate editor of the ASCE-ASME Journal of Risk and Uncertainty in Engineering Systems, and associate editor of Advances in Data Science and Adaptive Analysis. In addition, he has served as chair and co-chair of major conferences on resilience engineering, uncertainty and risk analysis.