(Oct. 27, 2014) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has been awarded a two-year, $400,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a DHS Scholars program, aimed toward building a future workforce for federal and private organizations addressing biological and digital threats.
Biological threats include bacterial and viral pathogens and are categorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Class A, B or C biothreat agents. Digital threats include malware, computer viruses, trojanized software and botnets. Both threat types can be weaponized for delivery to produce mass causalities, widespread panic and compromise U.S. command infrastructure.
Most of the funding will be focused on building a competitive DHS-based scholarship program and associated research training. The program will select a cohort of exceptional students for participation in the program. The overall research objective will be to develop a common threat assessment metric for biological and digital threats that can be applied by the DHS. If successful in meeting objectives in the first phase of this project, UTSA will be eligible for $500,000 in additional funding to support future DHS Scholars.
Funding will support tuition, fees and stipends for DHS Scholars in the areas of infection genomics, cloud computing and digital forensics. The UTSA Office of Undergraduate Research will announce a call for applications in early November with related coursework beginning in January.
"This is an incredible opportunity to engage undergraduate students in research to develop skills that provide a clear pathway for future employment in national security-based organizations," said Donovan Fogt, director of the Office for Undergraduate Research.
DHS Scholars will be engaged in experiential learning within UTSA, led by Early Career Awardees Palden Lama and Xiaoyin Wang, assistant professors in the Department of Computer Science, and Darrell Carpenter, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems and Cybersecurity.
First-year grant funding will support nine DHS Scholars enrolled in undergraduate courses, which will introduce students to cross-disciplinary teaching and research on biological and digital pathogens, informatics techniques and procedures useful for pathogenic outbreak investigations. Subsequent UTSA coursework will address biothreat agents and food defense, malware agents, cloud computing and big data analytics.
Early Career Awardees will collaborate with experts at two DHS Centers of Excellence, the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) at the University of Minnesota, and the Command, Control and Interoperability for Advanced Data Analysis (CCIADA) at Rutgers University. The DHS grant also will allow leading faculty in these areas, Rajendra Boppana, professor in the Department of Computer Science; Nicole Beebe, associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Cybersecurity; and Mark Eppinger, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, to provide mentoring to Early Career Awardees for support and promotion of scientific research.
"This program is an excellent example of faculty across colleges working together on innovative interdisciplinary research in digital forensics, infection genomics and cloud computing that will really excite our students," said Bernard Arulanandam, principal investigator, Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor in Biology and assistant vice president for research support. "This will broaden UTSA's profile so that these and other faculty will be competitive for future funding in areas of interest to DHS and other federal agencies such as biological and digital defense."
In addition to the completed coursework and experiential research experience, DHS student scholars will have opportunities to enhance their skills with paid internships at the DHS, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, the San Antonio Vaccine Center and at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The internships could open doors for the scholars to join the workforce at the DHS or other organizations working in these fields.
For more information, contact Jaclyn Shaw at 210-458-6767.
In honor of UTSA's 50th Anniversary in 2019, the university is hosting Roadrunner Days Spring Edition - two weeks of semester-launching activities built around our deeply held values of student success, student involvement, community service and fun!
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy invites everyone to its monthly lecture and stargazing event (weather permitting).
Flawn Building (FLN 2.02.02) and Curtis Vaughn Jr. Observatory, 4th floor of Flawn Building, Main Campus
All UTSA students, faculty, staff, alums & families are invited to march as a unified community. Register here: bit.ly/2TYbHbR. Shuttles will be provided from the Main and Downtown Campuses.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, 3501 MLK Dr., San Antonio
UTSA's John Nix invites the community to sing "Amazing Grace" and “We Shall Overcome” at 11 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The intent of this nationwide effort is to honor Dr. King's legacy and to spread a sense of community in the United States.
Locations throughout the United States
Opening Reception got exhibit featuring artists Miguel Aragon, Aaron Coleman, Sandra Fernandez, Annalise Gratovich, Marco Hernandez, Kristen Powers Nowlin, & Patricia Villalobos Echeverria
Main Art Gallery, Arts Building (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
Tracy Cowden, Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and chair of the UTSA Department of Music launches the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series with Music as Medicine: The Power and Influence of Music on our Health.
Radius Center, 106 Auditorium Cir. #120, San Antonio
UTSA African American Studies Program presents this series featuring Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.
Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus)
The annual event features authentic foods, music, dance, martial arts, shopping, games and entertainment from China, to the Indian Sub-continent, and the island nations of the Pacific. The Festival features two stages, a martial arts demonstration area, children’s hands on crafting area, anime activities, bonsai and ikebana displays, mahjong table and more.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.