A First Mover in Training a New Generation of Cybersecurity Experts
While cybersecurity is now recognized across the globe as critical to protecting everything that is impacted by computer systems, Stevens computer scientist Susanne Wetzel launched an undergraduate cybersecurity program at a time when the field was just emerging — positioning Stevens as a historical leader in the area.
Our reliance on computing touches all parts of our lives from medicine and banking to homeland security. And as major data breaches, hacks and identity thefts become disturbingly commonplace, the demand for a cybersecurity workforce capable of defending against crippling attacks grows increasingly urgent by the day.
Stevens has been at the forefront of anticipating and defending against the next waves of cybercrime, thanks in large part to cybersecurity expert Susanne Wetzel, who was recruited to Stevens in 2002.
“At that time, cybersecurity was just beginning to be in the public eye, to be taken seriously by industry and the government, and I was given wide latitude by Stevens’ leadership,” recalled Wetzel, who holds patents in wireless security and the generation of cryptographic keys.
Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Wetzel established a leading-edge bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity at Stevens in 2006, one of the first of its kind in the nation.
The curriculum Wetzel designed combines computer science and mathematics with a security-driven focus, and fosters an interdisciplinary approach to tackling complex issues of security. Under her guidance, students learn how to translate laboratory research into real-world applications that can confront high-stakes cybersecurity challenges.
“The thing that is unique about our field is that it changes almost instantly,” noted Wetzel. “We can never know everything that will happen, or happen next. That is the nature of cybersecurity: it is about anticipation and intelligent reaction. We train our students to think ahead, and this ability makes them especially well-suited to hit the ground running.”
Since the establishment of the undergraduate cybersecurity program, Stevens’ expansion, along with its national prominence, in the field has only continued to grow. The university has added a master’s degree program and established the Center for the Advancement of Secure Systems and Information Assurance (CASSIA), also spearheaded by Wetzel. In 2008, Stevens was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research.
Additionally, Wetzel’s leadership in cybersecurity research and education led to a key one-year appointment as program director of the NSF’s prestigious Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program in 2017. The SaTC aims to achieve a truly secure cyberspace by supporting the design and operation of cyber systems, protecting infrastructure, addressing system vulnerabilities, and promoting cybersecurity education. Wetzel’s role oversaw the grants process, and defined directions for the program within the organization.
While cybersecurity is now recognized across the globe as critical to protecting everything that is impacted by computer systems, Wetzel launched the undergraduate program at a time when the field was just emerging — positioning Stevens as a historical leader in the area.
“I think it’s fair to say we are among the nation’s top programs in the field now,” said Wetzel.