On the leading edge of the cybersecurity frontier

Jessica Hallman
May 17, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rahul Emani is well on the path to being a leader in the cybersecurity industry. He has earned a CompTIA Security+ certification, which stands out on applications for top cybersecurity jobs in government and industry. He also has devised a way to maximize smart home technology at a fraction of the current cost.

And, he’s just a first-year student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, with strong ambitions.

“I want to get my master’s degree before leaving Penn State,” he said. “Incorporating a graduate degree on top of a bachelor’s has me thinking at the level where I want to be.”

He first became interested in tech as a young child. Learning from his app-developer father, he started programming at age 12, and participated in a seventh-grade gifted program at Phoenixville that introduced him to Raspberry Pi — a small, inexpensive computer that teaches programming through fun and practical projects.

Those early experiences led him to Penn State, where he is among the first students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations, which launched in fall 2017

“Cyber is the new frontier, where cyberattacks get more complex and more frequent day to day,” he said. “At the federal government level, highly classified information could be leaked if cybersecurity wasn’t a thing. It has a universal application, and I’m excited to be a part of this adventure.”

Emani is getting a head start on that adventure by leading research projects as an undergraduate. He presented his current project, which applies smart home technology using the inexpensive Raspberry Pi to enable input and output for up to 10 devices, at the University’s Undergraduate Research Exhibition on April 17.

"Research helps with creative thinking. You don’t need to invent the wheel with research, but it encourages out-of-the-box thinking — something that most companies expect." 

— Rahul Emani

“Research helps with creative thinking,” he said. “You don’t need to invent the wheel with research, but it encourages out-of-the-box thinking — something that most companies expect. Research really has no guidelines or boundaries; there’s no box defined.”

That out-of-the-box thinking is something that Emani said is emphasized by faculty in the College of IST.

“Faculty are involved in a vast amount of research work, and most have industry experience, so they have a perception of which skills you’ll need down the road,” he said. “They also have a positive outlook and can help you reach the goals you set for yourself. Working with Professors [Michael] Hills, [David] Hozza, [Nicklaus] Giacobe and [Edward] Glantz has created so many opportunities for me, and I am so thankful for that.”

While Emani’s research allows him to enrich his classroom learning, he also strengthens his skill set through student clubs. He is the secretary of the Competitive Cyber Security Organization and is in the process of starting the Emerging Technology Club, which will officially launch in the fall.

“The club will help get students more involved in Internet of Things and app development,” he said. “Using Raspberry Pi, members will come up with ideas to problem solve then make a prototype, with the hope of possibly launching it with business applications.”

He also is in the process of launching a cybersecurity certifications club, leading a collaboration with the World Campus Technology Club to build a working prototype for his smart home project, serving as a learning assistant for an information security class, and helping his fellow students as an IST peer tutor. This summer, he is completing a systems engineer internship at Rajant.

As he looks forward to his sophomore year with an already impressive resume and well-rounded experiences, Emani encourages others in the College of IST to follow in his footsteps.

“There are so many opportunities outside of classes,” he said. “Student organizations are a great way to meet people and acquire new skills. Each opportunity pursued is a great learning experience and can also create future opportunities."

"A grade is only a number; it doesn’t define you," he added. "Classes can only teach you so much. Get other experience. Get acquainted with faculty. Pursue research. Connect with alumni however you can. Do things outside of class that can help you brush up on your skills.” 

Last Updated May 30, 2019