Summer program to offer research experience on machine learning in cybersecurity

February 05, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Undergraduate students interested in research surrounding the topic of machine learning in cybersecurity are invited to apply for the 2021 NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site Program, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Hosted virtually this summer by the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology, the 10-week program will pair students from institutions around the country with a College of IST faculty mentor. Guided by their mentor, each REU student will focus their research on a selected topic, such as detection and mitigation of misinformation on social media; human perception of machine-generated narratives; and smart contract fraud.

A virtual REU pilot program with a small number of undergraduate students was hosted by the College of IST last year. Each student worked on an individual research project with assigned instructors. A post-program evaluation highlighted positive learning experiences for each student, according to Aiping Xiong, co-principal investigator.

“All pilot program participants were satisfied with their experience, stating that they liked working one-on-one with their advisors for ten weeks, and that they received a good introduction to machine learning techniques that did not require too much background knowledge,” said Xiong. “Given the positive feedback from last year, we will continue the REU site program in a virtual format this year and aim to recruit more students.”

New research topics in machine learning and security have been added to the list of options available to participating students this year, Xiong added.

“We plan to increase the interaction among REU students, so that the students can also learn from each other regarding how to conduct research and how to address challenges,” she said.

Applications for the 2021 program must be received by Sunday, Feb. 28. The program will run from May 24 to July 30.

To be eligible, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; be enrolled as a full-time undergraduate at Penn State or elsewhere in the U.S. and its territories; have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0; have at least one year remaining before graduation, at the time of application; and have a strong desire to pursue a graduate program.

Twelve to 15 students nationwide will be selected for the program.

For more information and to apply, visit

Last Updated February 05, 2021