IST alumnus thanks networking, parents for diverse career opportunities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Michael Morelli, a State College native and 2016 Information Sciences and Technology (IST) graduate, took advantage of several experiences as an undergraduate student to satisfy his diverse interests. Now, as a professional living in Seattle, he is not slowing down.

Morelli’s interest in technology grew throughout high school and included an internship in the IT department at Mount Nittany Medical Center. When it came time to look at colleges, he quickly became interested in the Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) degree in IST, which prepares students to analyze, manage, and use the technology needed to address various risk domains.

“I’ve always had a passion for defense and offense,” Morelli explained. “I like to beat the system.”

Once on campus, Morelli served as the vice president of IST’s Competitive Cyber Security Organization (CCSO), where he participated in a number of cybersecurity competitions. These efforts included Penn State’s first-ever win in the Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition, where his team was recognized for presenting the best analysis and incident response to a simulated cyberattack.

Back in the classroom, Morelli served as a teaching assistant for Stan Aungst’s SRA 221 class, where he assisted in preparing lectures on various security topics and held office hours to answer students’ questions.

“Dr. Aungst was by far the best mentor to me at Penn State and IST,” Morelli said. “Stan and I are still close friends to this day, even after his retirement.”

Leveraging his varied interests, Morelli notes that one of his proudest accomplishments as an undergraduate was his team placed as finalists in the Nittany Watson Challenge. In the Challenge, his team created a virtual advisor chatbot called “Leo.”

Leo aimed to use artificial intelligence to decrease the workload for academic advisers by automatically answering student questions in a chat interface. And though his group is no longer pursuing the project, Morelli is bringing “the knowledge with me to use in the future.”

This experience also led to a fortunate connection. While at a networking event in Seattle, Morelli discussed Leo with a member of Amnis Consulting, a Seattle-based startup that provides end-to-end chatbot development for businesses.

Morelli turned that conversation into a part-time technical consultant role with the company, where he provides the technical details to clients of chatbot implementation and consults on the specific uses and benefits for businesses that use the tool.

“I’ve always had a drive inside of me since high school to succeed and make something of myself,” Morelli said. “At one point I was certainly the underdog.”

As a first-generation college student, Morelli thanks his parents for much of his motivation and success.

“I saw my parents quite a bit in college,” Morell said. “[They] did a great job setting me up for success, and I’ve always strived to make them proud.”

Now, Morelli works full-time with Boeing’s information security office. He completed a network engineering internship with the company as an undergraduate, and previously participated in the company’s rotational program as an IT project manager, where he assisted with a major cyber compliance effort for defense contractors in the U.S.

Looking back on his path, Morelli knows that each experience along the way offered a new opportunity to explore his interests and build his skill set.

“IST provided some great networking opportunities which have helped me to this day,” Morelli said.

Last Updated February 13, 2018