Program to introduce undergrad researchers to machine learning in cybersecurity

February 17, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Undergraduate students interested in machine learning in cybersecurity research activities are invited to apply to a new Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site program, to be hosted this summer at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the intensive 10-week program will engage research-oriented undergraduate students in research projects focusing on topics such as fake news mitigation, smart contract fraud, and privacy in conversational agents. Nine applicants from institutions across the country will be selected for the 2020 program, and each will be paired with a College of IST faculty mentor.

“This is a great opportunity for research-minded undergraduate students, due to the intensive interaction with the faculty,” said Dongwon Lee, associate professor of IST and principal investigator on the project. “In a typical research project, a student might meet with faculty once a week; but in this program, some students may meet with faculty every day. You rarely get that one-on-one opportunity.” 

At the end of the program, student participants will have learned about the flow of research from formulating problems, surveying literature, designing experiments, and writing research articles. The aim of the REU site program is to encourage students to explore continued research opportunities through graduate programs.

“Students won’t just learn to write a research article, but how to have an exploratory mindset and data-driven reasoning skills,” he said.

Aiping Xiong, assistant professor of information sciences and technology and co-principal investigator, added, “Even if the students choose not to apply to graduate programs in the future, the skills they gained, e.g., taking  a scientific approach to solving problems, will benefit industry as well.”

To be eligible for the REU program, a student must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; be currently enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at Penn State or elsewhere in the U.S. and its territories, and have at least one year remaining before graduation at the time of application. The project team will use a network of collaborators at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and at Hispanic-Serving Institutions to recruit students from under-represented minorities to participate in the REU Site.

The College of IST REU Site program will be held May 25-July 31 at Penn State’s University Park campus. Applications are due by March 2.

To learn more about the program and to apply, visit

Last Updated February 18, 2020