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Fostering Millennials in Research and Development

Fostering Millennials in Research and Development

An October 2014 survey titled Millennials at Work, commissioned by Bentley University, cites a majority sixty-six percent of millennials as wanting to start their own businesses,ᶦ while in 2016 a mere single-digit percentage had achieved the dream, with eight percent of all U.S.-based small businesses being owned by teens and twenty-somethings.ᶦᶦ As one of the top-ranking universities to offer a cybersecurity curriculum,iii and being a cybersecurity graduate student myself, I can’t help but wonder what we could do to encourage independent projects and foster more student outreach in our field. From community-driven research and development (R&D) projects, to the technology transfer (T2) that necessarily follows, ample opportunity exists at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute to promote and enhance Generation Y’s personal participation in commercially viable cybersecurity research projects. 

As my Information Assurance Professor, Kevin Kwiat, recently expressed, “universities have solutions in pursuit of problems.” In an ideal world, solutions are driven by problems, but instead, the forward-thinking-minds of students are what drive most university-based research and development efforts. We need direction, both instructionally and from leading industry figures. Without it, this tiny disconnect tends to act as a detriment to the commercialization and licensing of new technologies, a concept known as technology transfer. The SUNY Polytechnic Institute encourages industry partners to join in the development of such technologies through its own Technology Transfer Office.ᶦᵛ This is particularly true for our Nanoscale Sciences Department, but other departments could benefit from even a minimal effort to foster and include their students’ work. Here, however, I speak chiefly to the nascent Network and Computer Security graduate programs. 

Opening the NCS masters’ program to a wider student-base through online study was a great first step in fostering new breakthroughs in cybersecurity.ᵛ SUNY Poly’s goal to bring in mid-career professionals gives me hope for better cooperation between the university and major industry players. Our options for finishing the curriculum, either with a research project or by preparing a thesis, also instills the optimism that important breakthroughs are soon to come by the hands of millennials just like myself. Still, it will take minds younger than mine to usher us safely past 2020 and adapting instruction methods to maximize innovation will likely struggle if lead by a top-down approach. It will be in the hands of the students to make the next great ideological leap forward to advance the field of cybersecurity, and information technology in general. 

Securing funding for academics to push forward their research is always an uphill climb, which makes the link between successful research project, or thesis, and commercial venture even more important. In the 2019 Federal Fiscal Year Budget, the administration has prioritized the technology transfer process for agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology.ᵛᶦ Coupling that with the president’s renewed focus on national cybersecurity initiativesᵛᶦᶦ leaves the playing field wide open to students backed by their universities to increase both funding and participation in research and development. Our task as students is to keep that focus through the battering waves of progress, and one thing’s for sure, I’m truly excited to see what my fellow millennials and I will come up with next. Riding those waves of millennial progress, maybe we can spin off our novel inventions into a wave of small businesses as well. See you in 2019! 

Footnotes:

https://www.bentley.edu/prepared/new-survey-reveals-what-millennials-really-think-about-work 
ii https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2016/01/31/whats-really-keeping-millennials-from-starting-businesses/#5902d94d536d 
iii https://sunypoly.edu/news/suny-poly-network-computer-security-degree-ranked-top-5-new-york-state.html 
iv https://sunypoly.edu/research/technology-transfer.html 
https://sunypoly.edu/news/suny-poly-granted-approval-offer-network-computer-security-degree-program-students-online.html 
vi https://www.nist.gov/fy-2019-presidential-budget-request-summary/technology-transfer vii https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/National-Cyber-Strategy.pdf 

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