"We Want to Be Recognized as the Leading ... School in the World" - Pradeep Khosla, Carnegie Mellon University

Cybersecurity is the buzzword these days, and in terms of education ... Carnegie Mellon University is all over it, and has been for nearly a decade.

In an exclusive interview, Pradeep Khosla, dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, discusses:

The school's current cybersecurity programs;
Hot career opportunities for graduates;
Advice for those looking to start or jump-start a cybersecurity career.

Khosla is currently Dean of the College of Engineering and the Philip and Marsha Dowd University Professor at Carnegie Mellon. His previous positions include: Founding Director, Carnegie Mellon CyLab; Head, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Director, Information Networking Institute; Founding Director, Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES); and Program Manager, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he managed a $50M portfolio of programs in real-time systems, internet enabled software infrastructure, intelligent systems, and distributed systems.

TOM FIELD: Hi, this is Tom Field, Editorial Director with Information Security media Group. We are talking today about information security education and talking with Pradeep Khosla the Dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Dean Khosla thanks so much for joining me today.

PRADEEP KHOSLA: Thank you Tom.

FIELD: Just to start out, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and your role as the Dean at the School of Engineering.

KHOSLA: As the Dean of the School of Engineering I am the Chief Academic Officer and the Chief Administrative Officer for the whole school, which means that during the day I worry about the excellence of academic programs and in the evening I worry about balancing the budget. I am also the founding Director of Cylab, which is the largest multi-disciplinary security research effort in the country at a university. That is a very exciting position.

FIELD: Very much so. Now in terms of information security or cyber security as everybody talks about today, what are your school's biggest priorities?

KHOSLA: So our biggest priority is to be recognized as the leading school pursuing cyber security research in the world. The way we go about doing that, there are multiple components of this. One is building the largest set of faculty under a single roof, bringing faculty from technology and engineering, computer science, business and policy together to work on issues that most people don't work on. Secondly building professional degree programs that are cutting edge and that are educating students combined in the areas of technology, business and policies. It is not just one or the other it is a combination of all three. Thirdly, working very closely with industry and the U.S. government to transition some of our technologies so that they are deployed in practice.

FIELD: Now one of the things that we have seen this year is a new administration come into office, very much has put cyber security on the front burner. Now how has this focus impacted the activities at your school?

KHOSLA: You know amazingly it has not impacted in any way. We are still doing what we were doing because we set the vision for work we wanted to do in cyber security about nine years ago, long before it became hot. What we are really excited about is that this administration is now putting a lot of emphasis on issues we thought were important and I think we are going to see more resources allocated to this area, which would be good for us and many of the schools in the country, and it will also be good for industry because then we would see some of our technologies being transitioned because there would be a need for these technologies as new systems are being deployed.

FIELD: So in other words everybody else is finally talking about now what you have been talking about for a decade.

KHOSLA: Right, and that is fine because that should be the role of a leading research university in the country.

FIELD: Now given that you have got so many people paying attention to what you are doing now, and I presume that there are more people wanting to get into this field as well, what do you see as the best career opportunities for someone that is looking to either start or maybe even to jump start a cyber security career?

KHOSLA: I think the first thing they need to do is get good education in the area so just having a Bachelor's in Information Systems, Computer Science and Engineering, is necessary but not sufficient. Secondly you need to get a Master's. What you find is that the country, which is one of my pet peeves, is most of these professional degrees focus only on the technology, which is a little bit unfortunate because cybersecurity is one of the three or four areas where policy and technology are two sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand as you cannot do one without the understanding the other.

Then that is where Carnegie Mellon differentiate ourselves and that is the type of program--there are a couple of other places that have such programs too so I would tell students to think about programs that are what I call "full-bodied" in the sense of they are also some multi-disciplinary programs and educate them in a rounded manner.

FIELD: Now give me a sense Dean of what you look for in a student that can be successful in a full-bodied program like you have described.

KHOSLA: What we look for clearly is some basic competent ability in the background areas, which would be like electrical and computer engineering or computer science. Then we look for leadership in a student and them having an interest in more broad-based issues like policy and business, which may not be part of the early graduate curriculum, but we do want to see some interest in those areas.

FIELD: Now when the students leave your program where are they typically going in their careers?

KHOSLA: You know it is truly amazing, it is no single place. Some students for example go to financial houses, not that they become security (and by security I mean stock experts) but they work on the backend of all the financial transaction systems. Others go to hard-core technology companies like Symantec and IBM and Computer Associates and developing core technology for security oriented areas. Still others go to like applications oriented companies, transaction processing where security technologies are absolutely necessary to be part of the big system. So it is all over the map.

FIELD: Now earlier you talked about private industry and government, what do you need from the private and the public sectors for your programs to be most successful?

KHOSLA: I think what we need, and this is not just Carnegie Mellon, but across the country, to be a closer partnership between private industry and the university so that there is an understanding of problems within industry that academic faculty understand and work on so that students work on relevant problems and when they go out they are what is called "job ready."

And, for private industry to start investing in more significant ways than research in this area at universities, and I am not talking like give the money and walk away, I am talking create a partnership where we both work together for each other's benefit.

FIELD: Sure. Dean one last question for you, if you were to give a piece of advice to someone looking to enter this exciting field now in an exciting time, what advice would you give to them?

KHOSLA: I would say keep your mind open, get a strong, broad-based education, and then do what you love.

FIELD: Very good. Dean Khosla I appreciate your time and your insight today.

KHOSLA: Thank you, sir.

FIELD: This is Tom Field with Information Security Media Group. Thank you very much for listening. ##

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