Ambareen Siraj has her sights set on the future. And that future is computer science, specifically cybersecurity.
Siraj, a professor of computer science at Tennessee Tech, teaches security courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She has focused her research on the vast areas surrounding cybersecurity, including situation assessment in network security, secure communication in smart grids and security education.
“Our life is integrated with computing. It’s in our phone. It’s in our car. It’s at home. It’s in everything we do,” Siraj said. “Computing is everywhere. As technology use soars, so does abuse! Cybersecurity is the job now and in the future.”
As the director of Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC), she is the leader on five National Science Foundation grants involving cybersecurity and is the founder of the national Women in Cybersecurity conference, an effort to recruit, retain and advance women in the cybersecurity industry.
Siraj is also key in guiding research projects and organizing a weeklong NSA-NSF GenCyber Camp for high school students, teachers and counselors from the Upper Cumberland area, multi-day faculty professional development workshop for computer science faculty from the southwest region, and CyberCorps SFS new scholars’ Bootcamp on Tech’s campus.
“When you have great people (students, staff, and peers) around you, passion becomes work and work becomes play,” Siraj said.
Now CEROC is also organizing Cyber Discovery Day for Tech students and Industrial CyberSecurity Workshop for regional manufacturing industry in collaboration with the Industrial Assessment Center at Tech.
Last year, Tech’s center became the home of the Tennessee CyberCorps, a scholarship program funded by a more than $4 million NSF grant. The CyberCorps program at Tennessee Tech is the first program of its kind in the state and one of only 69 across the country.
Siraj’s effort to educate students and enhance the cybersecurity field of study goes beyond classes, research projects, workshops and conferences. Siraj has authored or co-authored more than 40 journal and conference articles while taking an active part in promoting cybersecurity training throughout the nation. She is also a frequent speaker in various cybersecurity conferences nationwide.
“She has a lot of passion for what she does. What she is doing is very exciting, and it has been a source of pride for the department,” said Jerry Gannod, chairman of the computer science department. “She mentors students and runs the outreach program. There are so many moving parts and she’s been able to manage them all. The center is in very good hands with her.”