New U of A Research Center Focuses on Security Across Disciplines

Laura Fickett

The Arkansas Security Research and Education Institute (ASCENT), a new center at the University of Arkansas, will focus on spreading security expertise across several different fields. ASCENT is now officially approved by Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

It is easier than ever to take advantage of digital technology. Smart devices, the cloud and big data processing techniques provide new opportunities for businesses, governments and other organizations. These new tools all come with additional security risks, however.

A key component of the center will be efforts to cross-train students to be proficient not just in one area of expertise but across multiple areas such as combinations of cyber security, computer engineering, molecular microbiology, etc. This multifaceted educational emphasis will provide the next generation of well-trained security workforce for industry and government institutions.

Researchers at ASCENT will specifically focus on four areas, and they plan to connect researchers and industry partners in these areas in order to develop security solutions. In the area of cybersecurity, the center takes advantage of the expertise of the U of A's cyber talent and local industry. In the transportation area, the institute is exploring ways to make supply chain logistics more efficient, while protecting the proprietary information of companies involved. The critical infrastructure area focuses on the digital infrastructure underlying the services we use every day, such as banks, power systems and the internet. This area also looks at future security risks associated with the emerging Internet of Things. Finally, ASCENT plans to focus on our food supply and water supply, finding ways to make sure these remain safe and plentiful.

The director of ASCENT is Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering and holder of the Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair. The three co-directors are Chase Rainwater, associate professor of industrial engineering, Dale Thompson, associate professor of computer science and computer engineering, and Steve Ricke, director of the Center for Food Safety of the University of Arkansas System's Division of Agriculture and a faculty member of the Department of Food Science.

Contacts

Camilla Shumaker, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, camillas@uark.edu

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