Cybersecurity educationAPL, UTSA: Collaborating on Cybersecurity, Resilience

Published 6 September 2021

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has earned a reputation as one of the U.S. leading centers of research on public health, with an emphasis on national security. But one of the APL’s core competencies is cybersecurity and advanced analytics, focused on security concerns of the nation’s military. This dovetails with the UTSA National Security Collaboration Center’s (NSCC) mission. The two institutions are exploring collaboration options.

Maegen Nix from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL) recently met with the UTSA National Security Collaboration Center faculty, staff, and industry partners to discuss and share their complementary research in critical infrastructure resilience and cyber operations.

In addition for its reputation for its national health mission and its school of public health, the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is the research arm of the institution and is a designated University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). It has a diversified portfolio of more than 600 programs with research and development, primarily with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Security Agency and its sponsors.

One of the APL’s core competencies is cybersecurity and advanced analytics, focused on security concerns of the nation’s military, and mission-related research and development. This dovetails with the NSCC’s mission to foster an environment where industry, government, and academic partners can collaborate to address current and future national security issues.

“Expanding our partnership between the two organizations will provide opportunities for UTSA students and researchers to have paid internships at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, a global leading research institution and the largest UARC in the U.S.,” said (ret.) Gen. Guy Walsh, UTSA NSCC founding executive director. “They are tackling the most challenging and complex problems, and it is a dream come true as APL does applied research across all domains whether real or virtual including sea, air, land, space, and cyber.”

UTSA notes that JHU-APL also offers a Technology Leadership Scholars (ATLAS) summer intern program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. It is a unique paid summer engineering program that provides college students who have completed their freshman year with educational opportunities in research, leadership development, and professional growth.

Faculty also discussed their research and how their data and techniques could serve as a resource to enhance national security and have synergies with the APL.

The Cyber Center for Security and Analytics provided a tour of its Cyber Protective Operations Lab led by technical program director and research scientist Oren Upton. The team is conducting vulnerability analysis and digital forensic analysis of commercial and consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smart home devices in collaboration with federal partners. Their analysis will help provide data for future research and help law enforcement and national security elements better protect IoT devices connected to the internet.

Glenn Dietrich of the Institute for Cyber Security (ICS) Lab demonstrated the SCADA wall and its value to students, with a simulation of the electrical grid and the use of AI in detecting and ameliorating exploits. The San Antonio Virtual Environments (SAVE) lab exhibited its research in augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (VR) as it applies to real world solutions in medical training, education, and rehabilitation.

External partners were also in attendance. Jeremy Nelson, deputy director, and Micah Wright, program manager, from the Military Health Institute at UT Health San Antonio provided an overview of the institute and the need to support our active duty military, veterans, and their families through research, clinical advocacy, engagement and education. Mike Runnels, UT Health’s senior information security analyst, also provided an overview of the UT Health Information Security Program.

UTSA says that “these ongoing collaborations and discussions add to the ever-growing national security knowledge base at UTSA.” San Antonio is the second largest global cyber hub in the United States with a growing cyber ecosystem. The NSCC will be co-located with the UTSA School of Data Science in a new research and education center near UTSA’s downtown campus in San Antonio and is scheduled to open in 2022.