Cyber-physical systems program to debut at University of Virginia

Through $3 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, a new program will train graduate students in cyber-physical and IoT systems.
(Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia)
(Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia)

The University of Virginia’s School of Engineering is planning to launch a training program for graduate students to study cyber-physical systems and Internet of Things.

The program, which is funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, will operate out of the engineering school’s Link Lab , which promotes the study of cyber-physical systems through a cohort of multi-disciplinary professor- and researcher-led projects. Graduate students, including those not seeking a Ph.D in the the burgeoning fields of IoT and cybersecurity, will have the opportunity to conduct hands-on research and create cyber-physical products and services with applications in the real world.

An 18-month master’s degree in cyber-physical systems is also in the works for the Lab, according to its director, Jack Stankovic.

The curriculum for the new program, Stankovich said, would emphasize professional development and multidisciplinary problem solving in the realm of cyber-physical systems.


Establishing diversity of graduate students will also be a focal point of the program, said Executive Dean Pamela M. Norris, who noted the program is aligned with the recommendations listed in a 2008 National Academy of Engineering report that pushes to position engineering as a field in which young people can make a difference in the world through creative solutions, rather than a field that simply emphasizes math and science skills.

“We intend to emphasize convergence activities as part of their training,” Stankovic said in a statement last week. “Cyber-physical systems is inherently multidisciplinary, with multiple engineering and computer disciplines brought to bear in developing new technologies and addressing grand challenges. Our graduate students will have opportunities to collaborate, embed in labs and workplaces, and manage the deployment of new technologies.”

TheLink Lab’s new endeavor isn’t the only place the NSF has allocated grant money towards graduate-level STEM research. Seventeen projects totaling $51 million have been funded recently towards “supporting approaches that utilize evidence-based learning practices, immersing students in interdisciplinary research and providing students with opportunities to develop career-aligned skillsets,” according to a statement from Jim Lewis, acting assistant director for NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate.

Government has increasingly turned its view toward the expansive attack surface that a growing Internet of Things presents. A state auditor in Massachusetts reported this month that while helpful, securing IoT systems had become an unmanageable task in many instances.

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