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UNLV Launches Scholarship Program for Cyber Defense

Using over $3 million in grant funding from the NSF, the university will establish a new CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program to train cybersecurity professionals to work with AI and machine learning tools.

The University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) is using a $3.1 million grant to establish a new scholarship program to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity and cyber defense.

According to a news release in January, the university's College of Engineering will use the funding to establish a new CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program, which aims to train cybersecurity experts to work with artificial intelligence technologies in federal and local government.

“Incorporating AI and machine learning into cybersecurity is vital as it allows us to proactively identify and combat complex cyber threats, thereby strengthening the protection of our nation's critical digital infrastructure,” Juyeon Jo, a project lead and computer science professor at UNLV, said in a public statement. “This grant will empower us to educate students in these sophisticated fields, equipping them to bolster government sectors with cutting-edge cybersecurity defenses.”

According to the news release, the university was awarded three grants last year totaling over $3 million from the Small Business Administration, the National Security Agency and Google to support cybersecurity education efforts. Those grants were to expand the work of UNLV’s Free Cyber Clinic, founded in 2021 to provide cybersecurity assistance to southern Nevada small businesses.

The announcement also noted that the CyberCorps SFS program at UNLV aims to attract and mentor “high-caliber students” from undergraduate and graduate levels, adding that the program will engage with local high schools and community colleges to provide more IT security training opportunities, particularly for female and non-white students.

“The NSF grant will significantly enhance our cybersecurity program, creating synergies with our existing initiatives, including the NSA's GenCyber high school cybersecurity summer camp, the Department of Energy's critical infrastructure cybersecurity using AI, and the Cyber Clinic for small businesses supported by the NSA, SBA and,” Jo said in a public statement. “This funding serves as a catalyst for comprehensive cybersecurity workforce development, bridging programs from high school to graduate training, and providing vital services like our Cyber Clinic for small businesses.”

UNLV joins many other universities in building up its cybersecurity programming with workforce development in mind, such as Rhode Island College, which launched a new cybersecurity program in November 2023, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which launched a new master’s program for business cybersecurity in August 2023.

According to the announcement, the new program will make use of UNLV's expertise and resources to prepare students for cybersecurity roles primarily within federal or local government and will allow recruited students to receive full scholarships. It said students will be encouraged to participate in extensive cybersecurity training through academic coursework, online modules and industry certifications, to learn how to identify and stop cyber attacks using machine learning technologies and techniques.

The announcement added that the program will enable students to receive mentorship from research supervisors and participate in cyber competitions, conferences, summer internships and hands-on training through the Free Cyber Clinic, where they will work with local clients to combat ransomware, phishing attacks and other cyber threats.

"It is critical that we unleash the enormous talent embedded in our communities and bring new, diverse perspectives into the nation's cybersecurity workforce," NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. "NSF recognizes the persistent shortage of cybersecurity talent in the United States and strives to bridge this gap by providing diverse student populations with innovative and high-quality educational experiences. This investment reaffirms NSF's commitment to developing a solid workforce of cybersecurity graduates with integrated AI skills, ready to tackle future cyber threats."