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Marymount Receives NSF Grants to Promote IT Careers

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Marymount University grants totaling more than $300,000 to fund two projects designed to encourage interest in information technology (IT) careers among women and students not currently in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs.

Dr. Sherri Lind Hughes, Marymount’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, says, "Encouraging students to take an interest in technology careers is a solid investment in our future. These fields present robust job prospects and a rich variety of career paths, and the NSF-funded projects will help prepare our students to take full advantage of those opportunities."

The two projects, totaling $305,258 in grants, are for two years each and were awarded in August and September. One targets female students; the other focuses on non-STEM students and those with undeclared majors. Both include summer programs for local high school juniors and seniors.

Encouraging High School Women To Consider Cybersecurity Professions
One NSF grant, for $162,564, is for a project called PUNCCH, or “Developing a ‘Protect,’ ‘Use,’ and aNalyze’ Approach to Cybersecurity Competitions in the Healthcare Environment.” It is led by Dr. Diane Murphy, professor of information technology (IT) and chair of the Department of IT and Management Science, and Drs. Michelle Liu and Ali Bicak, both assistant professors of IT.

Dr. Murphy explains, “Often, the first exposure to cybersecurity for young people is a competition at the high school or college level. Most of these competitions have a male focus, based on military ‘capture the flag’ principles. As a result, few women take part. PUNCCH will develop female-friendly cybersecurity competition to encourage girls and young women to go into the growing cybersecurity profession, where women still are a minority.”

The competition for high school students will be created by current Marymount IT students (male and female); it will be based on an alternative view of cybersecurity, using ‘protect,’ ‘use,’ and ‘analyze’ approaches; and will involve systems and data in the healthcare environment, where security and privacy are key. High school students and their teachers will be invited to a summer camp at Marymount, to learn about cybersecurity principles and practices, with the competition concluding the camp.

Mobile Apps for Everyone
The second NSF grant, for $142,694, is for a project called MUMADE, which stands for Marymount University Mobile Apps Development for Everyone. The project, led by Drs. Liu and Murphy, targets Marymount general-education students and undeclared majors by teaching them how to create mobile apps as part of their regular courses. In addition, a summer institute on mobile app creation is being designed for high school and community college students.

Dr. Liu says, “MUMADE will give these students the opportunity to acquire practical experience building mobile apps, which we hope will stimulate their curiosity about computing technology. Building mobile apps could be their first step toward a broader understanding of the contributions they could make in the technology field. We hope MUMADE will prepare non-STEM students with substantial STEM competencies and inspire them to participate in the computing field.”
The NSF is an independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through research programs and education projects. The agency receives about 40,000 proposals a year and funds only 10,000.