A partnership with a national lab gives the University of Utah the ability to research cybersecurity.
This story is part of the Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identifying solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
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The president of the University of Utah describes the recently signed agreement with the College of Engineering as unbeatable.
“We just got invited to the Engineering Rose Bowl,” Taylor Randall said at a press conference Wednesday, “and we’re going to win this one because we can’t lose.”
After a decade of collaboration, the College of Engineering at the University of Utah and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have finally made things official by joining the strategic agreement for world-class education and research. , or SUPER agreement. The SUPER agreement allows the two organizations, including University students, staff and faculty, to work closely together to strengthen the country’s energy and security technologies.
The INL is the main national center for research, testing and dissemination of nuclear energy. The institution also contracts with the federal government to bolster national security technology. Over the past decade, University faculty members and INL researchers have created a wireless communications program to aid first responders and law enforcement and have helped develop treatments against cancer.
Now, the partnership is transforming personal agreements into a five-year memorandum of understanding between the university and the Battelle Energy Alliance, which oversees the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.
Randall hopes this high profile deal will make the U. one of the top ten engineering schools in the country.
Currently, about 6,400 students are enrolled in the college, and Richard Brown, the dean of the university’s College of Engineering, wants to increase that number to 10,000 in a bid to provide “highly skilled employees both to the economy of Utah and INL”.
The students of the U. will have access to internship opportunities that John Wagner, the director of the INL, considers to be the “talent pipeline”. The hope is that students will intern at one of their institutions for a summer, build a relationship, and begin to develop their careers with INL.
Brown said in an interview that this partnership will give students the chance to work with “really great” researchers, equipment and other resources.
It will also benefit Utah tech companies, he said, because the more research they do, the more the technology will be developed.
Additionally, the SUPER deal allows the U. to begin searching for classified information – a key element of collaboration. READ. will house INL employees in the Price building where Randall says researchers will conduct “highly sensitive and secure research for government entities.”
Students and teachers will also participate. Brown said the partnership will allow INL to sponsor clearances so that as soon as someone comes on board, they are cleared to work on sensitive projects.
“I think it will be a big advantage for [the INL] as well as for our students,” he said.
A top priority for U.S. Representative Chris Stewert, R-Utah, is the national cybersecurity research the partnership will produce.
“We are literally looking at the barrel of a loaded gun when it comes to cyberattacks.” said Stewart. “And we’re behind the curve.”
As Russia steps up its aggression against Ukraine, Stewart says Vladimir Putin is “likely to retaliate” if Congress decides to impose sanctions on the country. But Stewart said the INL and U. collaboration allows the United States “to be in a much more defensive position” when it comes to cyberattacks.