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$2 Million NSF Grant Supports University’s Cybersecurity, Resilience, and Data Science Programs

By Noell Saunders

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Old Dominion University a grant totaling more than $1.5 million with additional University matching funds of $644,741 to acquire equipment to develop a high-performance computing system that will support three campus-wide interdisciplinary initiatives.

The DISCOVER system will assist in cybersecurity, resilience, and data-intensive science and engineering, which are top priorities crucial to the long-term sustainability of the University and Hampton Roads.

"This new initiative reflects our commitment to providing educational opportunities that address very real issues in our region and the world," President John R. Broderick said. "It also helps us expand the pipeline for a diverse group of cybersecurity, resilience and engineering professionals who will be responsible for safeguarding our critical infrastructure."

Hongyi "Michael" Wu, director of the University's Cybersecurity Center for Education and Research and the principal investigator for this project, said the new system will offer substantial computational power to support a number of critical research projects.

"From a cybersecurity perspective, if I want to crack a password it may take me hours on a regular computer. But on this 'super' computer it would take less time," Wu said "The new system will help us get results much faster."

The co-principal investigators on the project are Nikos Chrisochoides, professor in computer science; Jingwei Huang, associate professor in engineering management and systems engineering; Khan Iftekharuddin, professor and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology; and Masha Sosonkina, professor in modeling, simulation and visualization engineering.

Rizwan Bhutta and Wirawan Purwanto from Information Technology Services were instrumental in developing the configuration for the computational system and demonstrating the capability to manage this project for research and instruction.

In cybersecurity, the computing system will aid in hardware security for cryptographic circuit verification; modeling learning with homomorphic encryption; malware and anomaly detection; and modeling cyberattack paths and their mitigation. In resilience, it will aid in computational simulations to model sea-level rise; understanding social media for emergency preparedness for natural disasters; and the understanding of massive geospatial traffic patterns. In data-intensive science and engineering, it will help with the analysis of brain imaging and image-guided surgery; high-accuracy finite element mesh generation; and modeling of power-consumption and resource allocation for high-performance computing clusters.

The computing system will stimulate multi-disciplinary collaborations with other institutions in Hampton Roads, including Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College. Training workshops and a summer institute will be organized to help students gain high-performance computing skills.

The University will work local groups to support workforce development and help the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education framework address workforce needs and increase the pipeline of students pursuing cybersecurity careers.

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