LAWRENCE — A new engineering degree program at the University of Kansas will send students into the cybersecurity market armed with tools to create programs and systems that protect the world’s most critical assets from hacking, ransomware and other immensely disruptive crimes and mischief generated during the digital age.
The Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering, approved this summer by the Kansas Board of Regents, is available through the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. Students completing the required 126 credit hours — including 30 hours of math and science — will be equipped to protect data, computer systems and networks from unauthorized access and destruction involving government entities, health institutions, banking, e-commerce, academia and more.
“While dozens of schools across the country offer cybersecurity degrees of one kind or another, the inclusion of the word ‘engineering’ in the title of KU’s program means it is grounded in the calculus-based engineering that makes it all work,” said Erik Perrins, professor and chair of the electrical engineering & computer science department. While other degree programs train students to implement cyber protections, graduates of KU’s engineering-based program will be creating the actual protections themselves.
“This degree focuses on what engineers focus on, which is design,” Perrins said. “Right now, in the company where you work, someone takes a cybersecurity product off the shelf and puts it to use. What we do is different. We create the cybersecurity technology and don’t just deploy it.”
The program is designed to meet standards of the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). It would be the fourth such engineering program to be accredited.
The program also is aligned with standards from the National Security Agency’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and the National Center for Excellence in Cyber Research. For its existing programs, KU is one of 45 academic institutions nationwide to already hold both designations.
The Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science is experienced in cyber education, offering an undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity since spring 2020. A dozen students have received certificates, and an additional 43 were pursuing the certificate in spring 2023.
The department also is making another change this year, this one involving terminology: The Interdisciplinary Computing program is now known as Applied Computing. The popular program combines a background in computing with education in other professional disciplines — astronomy, biology, chemistry, journalism, economics and financial technology among them — to address real-world market needs.
The change is akin to a file name reboot, one intended to help students’ innovative and ever-applicable degrees translate more clearly with HR departments and hiring managers.
“Applied Computing is just more user-friendly,” Perrins said.
Photo: HackKU is an annual 36-hour hackathon at the University of Kansas School of Engineering, where students can have the opportunity to innovate new ideas, discover different paths, and push the boundaries of technology. File photo, 2020, from KU Marketing.