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Cyber engineering program noteworthy

October 4, 2012

GOURD

 

KELSY KERSHAW
Staff Reporter

 

Under mountains of papers and circuits ready to be constructed, Jean Gourd rests his elbows on the two bare spots of his desk as he begins to explain exactly what cyber engineering is.

 

“I like to think of it as a marriage of computer science and electrical engineering,” said Gourd, an assistant professor of computer science. “In the most basic terms, it is software plus hardware.”

 

Like all the other engineering curricula, Gourd said cyber engineering begins with the “Living with the Lab” series in a student’s first year.

 

“Instead of buying a textbook, students essentially buy a piece of hardware that they use to learn about the concepts of engineering,” he said. “They also do a lot of projects that are very hands-on.”

 

Along with their hands-on projects, Gourd said the students have to complete the general education requirements like everyone else before they are able to get to focus on the concentrated areas.

 

“After they take their histories, sciences and English compositions, they get into the computer science concentrations and the electrical engineering concentrations,” Gourd said. “That ultimately leads to the cyber engineering concentrations.”

 

He said the cyber engineering aspects are spread out throughout the entire curriculum, but it really gets into intense cyber courses at the end of a student’s sophomore year.

 

“That’s when they really get in depth with cyber security, digital forensics and steganography, access control logic and covert channels,” he said.

 

All of those topics, plus more, are used to achieve the goal of cyber engineering, Gourd said.

 

Through the course teachings the goal is to increase the students’ ability to strengthen cyber security.

 

“Right now all the focus for designing systems for industry, government and military are always on reliability, making it scalable, making it powerful and making it fast,” Gourd said. “So the ultimate goal is for the students to be a cyber engineer and their default behavior when they approach a system would be to check its security.”

 

One of the best things about cyber engineering is how it broadens the horizons for students once they graduate as far as careers are concerned, Gourd said. He added, regardless of which company you work for they are going to use cyberspace so they are always going to need cyber engineers.

 

“There is always going to be that infrastructure in that system that is going to need to be maintained,” he said. “So essentially, cyber engineers could get a job almost anywhere.”

 

This concept about employment is what really hooked freshman cyber engineering major Tiffany Thomas. She said she is confident in the program’s ability to equip her for her career.

 

“I like the fact that the topics covered in this program will prepare us for our future,” she said. “There are many job opportunities that a degree such as this one could benefit from.”

 

Thomas said she is extremely excited to be part of the first freshman class that was offered this degree program at Tech, and she is ready to see what the future holds for her in this program.

 

For the first full year of the degree program, they have a pretty solid foundation of students, Gourd said.

 

“Right now we have 25 students whose degree program is considered to be a bachelor of science in cyber engineering,” he said. “With scholarship programs that we plan to implement, we hope to see that number double or triple by next year.Tech is the first and currently the only school in the nation with a cyber engineering degree program,” Gourd said.

 

“We are the first to get this program, so I like to say we are the best, but right now we have no competition,” Gourd said. “We are ahead of the ball game and there are a lot of people looking to us, both industry and academia as well.”

 

Email comments to kjk016@latech.edu.

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