many students complete internships during their time at IUP, few can
say that the details are, quite literally, confidential.
senior Rodney Cesar, a computer science major with a cyber security
concentration and minors in criminology and math, just finished a
research-based internship focused on cloud computing for the United
States Department of Defense—and that’s just about all that he’s
at liberty to share.
DoD officially recognizes IUP as a Center of Academic Excellence in
Cyber Defense. As selected applicants from one of these esteemed
universities, Cesar and five other IUP students were awarded full-ride
scholarships through the DoD Cyber Scholarship Program (CySP). This
scholarship pays for books and a laptop of their choice, as well as
their full tuition and fees.
DoD’s ultimate goal, according to Cesar, is to bring capable
students—the “best of the best”—to fill a shortage in the cybersecurity field at a national level.
Ieraci, another IUP senior computer science major and winner of the DoD
Cyber Scholarship, says that she “gained a lot of experience in
software development” as a member of the program. Ieraci is on the
software engineering track within her major at IUP and has a minor in
a part of the program, the students begin research of their choice.
Cesar’s work last fall was titled “Machine-to-machine authentication and
anomaly detection in the IoT,” comparing lightweight encryption
methods; and Ieraci’s addressed “Training a neural network to extract
context from emojis in Tweets.” She continued the “machine
learning”-related work of a former IUP CySP recipient, Daniel Richmond.
Ieraci explained, “The goal of the research is to get the computer to
take the emojis and figure out what the sentiment of them is—positive,
neutral, or negative” using a Naive Bayes algorithm.
concludes with an internship with any number of agencies within the
DoD. The sorting process is something of a “football draft,” according
to Cesar, to match students with departments that align with their
future career goals. Although coronavirus concerns forced both Cesar and
Ieraci to complete their internships almost entirely remotely, Cesar
feels that the security clearances that come with the job and his recent
role within the DoD have positioned him well for the first few years of
internship stands out as a uniquely beneficial part of her time at IUP.
Regarding the necessity of moving fully online, she says confidently,
“we made it work.” Her work used Agile and Scrum software, which she
says fostered a sense of “tight-knit teamwork and fast development” as
she and her teammates were forced to “make changes on the fly” to create
their final digital robots.
“The experience was really, really cool,” she said.
their internship and graduation, students serve one year with the DoD
for each year they received the scholarship. After their time working
with the DoD, these students can choose what Cesar refers to as a
“smooth transition” to a government career in cybersecurity, or pursue a
number of diverse opportunities in the private sector.
is the goal for Cesar. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum
computing are interests that Cesar says he is “hoping to explore a lot
more” after graduation. More than likely, after serving one and a half
years with the DoD, he will transition to the private sector, possibly
even opening his own business one day.
likes that, with the many agencies under the DoD, “I can pick what I’m
interested in.” Later, she may shift into another dream career:
programming video games.
CySP, IUP provides many opportunities for students to get hands-on
experience in cybersecurity. Between IUP’s Cyber Security club,
competing at Hackathon, completing their internships, and the other
opportunities that their major at IUP has offered them, Cesar and Ieraci
are looking toward the future with valuable experience in tow.
of where they end up, Cesar and Ieraci have clearly gained a lot from
this opportunity. Ieraci says, “I’ve learned a lot about cybersecurity
and software development through CySP, and I’m really glad for that.”
For more information, visit the DoD Cyber Scholarship Program.
—Written by Amy Kukula
Cook Honors College