Director of Cybersecurity Practice Joins Department of Computer Science
Laura Rodgers has joined NC State as the Director of Cybersecurity Practice in the Department of Computer Science (CSC), where she will facilitate outreach with government and industry partners to advance cybersecurity education and research initiatives.
This position is housed within the Secure Computing Institute (SCI), which was created in 2019 to position NC State University as a national leader in cybersecurity research and education. The SCI is a crucial player in the fight to address cyber attacks that pose a threat to national security, Rodgers said.
The SCI is also home to the North Carolina Partnership for Cybersecurity Excellence (NC-PaCE), a coalition of eight of North Carolina’s universities and community colleges, government organizations, and businesses dedicated to promoting economic growth in North Carolina through cybersecurity research and building a strong workforce of cybersecurity expertise in the state. In 2021, NC-PaCE received a $2 million grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity within the National Security Agency.
“The overarching goal for everyone should be to keep our sensitive data out of the hands of our adversaries,” Rodgers said. “But that is very complex and difficult to do, because we’re dealing with humans, and we all make mistakes. We don’t all understand our adversaries, we don’t understand the threats and we don’t understand our vulnerabilities. In order to solve those problems, we all have to work together.”
Rodgers aims to build an ecosystem of outreach, research and education; she will work closely with government organizations and industry stakeholders to ascertain pressing cybersecurity challenges, which will guide research strategy within the SCI. Additionally, Rodgers said, this understanding will drive education within CSC to equip students with advanced cybersecurity knowledge and produce exceptional computer scientists for the workforce.
As Director of Cybersecurity Practice, Rodgers will also work to enhance cybersecurity opportunities for students. Rodgers said she is excited to help prepare CSC students to excel in the workforce and fill the cybersecurity job gap. According to CyberSeek, a project sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, currently there are over 700,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States, and cybersecurity job demand in North Carolina is above the national average.
Rodgers holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. She has over 20 years of experience in the defense industry, where she was responsible for compliance and quality management systems. As a defense contractor, Rodgers said she witnessed a critical need for cybersecurity research and education to protect against a vast array of threats to national security.
“I’m very passionate about this because I am committed to national security, and I think that comes from my background being a defense contractor,” Rodgers said. “I’m committed to us winning this cyber-war.”
In recent years, CSC has expanded its endeavors to meet the growing demands of the cybersecurity industry and establish the department as a leader in cybersecurity research and education. The SCI plays a key role in this venture — led by Dr. Laurie Williams, Distinguished Professor, and Dr. William Enck, Professor, the SCI performs essential cybersecurity research in several research labs, including the NC State’s Science of Security Lablet, an initiative of the National Security Agency. This multidisciplinary lablet works to advance security and privacy research and has brought $19 million in research funding to NC State since it was established in 2012.
Throughout CSC, individuals are conducting valuable and impactful research that is recognized at a national level. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, CSC received a record $19.5 million in new awards for research.
In addition to research, CSC is delivering a wealth of educational opportunities for students. In 2021, CSC began offering an undergraduate concentration in cybersecurity, and in fall 2022, the department launched an undergraduate concentration in Artificial Intelligence. In 2017, CSC created a master’s track in security, and an undergraduate track in security in 2019. The department plans to offer more concentrations and tracks in the future to enrich the learning experience for CSC students.
Rodgers said she looks forward to contributing to NC State’s outstanding research and education and working to prepare CSC students to defend cyberspace.
“I’m thrilled to be here and to be part of the solution,” Rodgers said.
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