SCI Faculty Members Receive Pitt Seed Grant Funding

SCI faculty members Ahmed Ibrahim, Leona Mitchell, Matt Burton, and Hassan Karimi have been chosen to receive funding as part of the 2021 Pitt Seed Grant program. The program, now in its fourth year, provides startup funding to transformative projects that support the goals of Pitt’s strategic plan. Their projects are:

The Pitt Cyber Range 

Ahmed Ibrahim, Teaching Assistant Professor

This project will build the Pitt Cyber Range, a sandboxed environment to simulate real attacks and defenses, which will have a societal impact on a broad range of learners. It will be used 1) in the security courses offered by the School of Computing and Information, 2) by students in cybersecurity clubs to prepare for national competitions, 3) in outreach to underrepresented groups to provide an accessible and affordable way to increase diversity in the cybersecurity field and 4) to enhance and promote advanced cybersecurity education through a series of workshops for learners and educators across the country.

Creating a Diverse Cybersecurity Workforce 

Leona Mitchell, Professor of Practice

The cybersecurity skills gap remains a significant challenge in the industry. The increase of complex cyberattacks has escalated the need for qualified resources. Faced with this challenge, employers are searching for candidates outside of tech, but transitioning to cybersecurity from a non-tech field is difficult. Furthermore, today’s cyber workforce is underrepresented; men outnumber women by three to one, and underrepresented groups make up less than 15% of the workforce. Our project aims to bridge this skills gap through a series of asynchronous boot camps, making cybersecurity education more accessible while helping to address the skills shortage in the industry.

Cultivating a Data Science Learning Community

Matt Burton, Lecturer

This project will address the growing demand for informal data science training from students, faculty, postdocs and staff across disciplines at Pitt and build a sustained learning community. The demand for informal training offered by the School of Computing and Information and the libraries has outpaced capacity. To address this demand, this project will scale up informal data science training through guided and self-guided instruction with student workers. To complement informal instruction, the project will create a diverse and inclusive data science learning community that supports learners during and after workshops, hosts events and maintains a space for further informal learning and collaboration.

Understanding, Building and Achieving Diversity and Inclusion Excellence in the University of Pittsburgh Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Hassan Karimi, Professor

Pitt aspires to foster research of impact and a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Yet, it is unclear how these aspirations are supported or achieved through Pitt’s translational, tech transfer and commercialization activities. Literature suggests societally beneficial inventions often have small commercial markets, and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups may be less successful in attracting funding, making it difficult to jointly maximize DEI, commercial value and societal impacts. We propose to study how DEI is incorporated and promoted in Pitt’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to identify opportunities to reconcile trade-offs between societal impact and commercial value, and promote excellence in DEI.

Please join us in congratulating Ahmed, Leona, Matt, and Hassan on these exciting projects!

Learn more about the 2021 Pitt Seed Grant program.