School of Engineering establishes virtual institute to combat cyberthreats

LAWRENCE — A new virtual institute established at the University of Kansas School of Engineering will train the next generation of military and civilian leaders to better combat the growing threat of cyberattacks and protect the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS).

Fengjun Li, KU professor

KU received a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to establish the program, known as the Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ, or VICEROY, Virtual Institute. The grant is overseen by the Griffiss Institute, which is a nonprofit talent and technology accelerator for the Department of Defense and an international network of academic, government and industry partners.

Fengjun Li, KU professor of electrical engineering & computer science and lead researcher for the VICEROY Virtual Institute, said the complexity and diversity of modern communication systems — such as 5G and 6G networks — as well as artificial intelligence and electronic warfare systems present daunting challenges in protecting networks from cyberattacks.

“We must manage and allocate scarce spectrum resources, detect and counter sophisticated signal jamming and interference, and maintain reliable and secure communication in contested environments,” Li said. “Successfully tackling these challenges requires education, training, research and teamwork across many disciplines.”

KU will partner with researchers at Ohio State University and Purdue University Northwest to develop new cybersecurity courses and curriculum to support more than 30 students each year across three universities.

The VICEROY Virtual Institute will officially launch in fall 2023. It will offer an augmented curriculum that enhances existing education in cyber and EMS operations through hands-on training, research-oriented experiential learning and several scholarships. The VI will provide four augmentation programs, including:

  • Cybersecurity theories and practices
  • Cyber and EMS operations
  • Data science in cyber and EMS applications
  • Strategic foreign language proficiency in Chinese

In addition, it will offer two special education and training programs for developing cyber talent and qualified cyber instructors in the form of summer camps, workshops and seminars.

“Equipping the future generation of military and civilian leaders with essential skills in cyber and EMS security through experiential learning is becoming more crucial in our interconnected society,” Li said. “Developing a pipeline of future cyber leaders is critical to these efforts and a key goal of this program.”

The KU School of Engineering has a long history as a national leader in cybersecurity and electromagnetic spectrum research. The federally funded Institute for Information Sciences (I2S) has researchers developing technology in the areas of cybersecurity, computing, communications, bioinformatics, signal processing and sensors. I2S is also home to cybersecurity research at KU and is continuously supported by the university.

Mon, 08/28/2023


Cody Howard

Media Contacts

Cody Howard

School of Engineering