US Bank awards scholarships to four UMSL cybersecurity students

Shreya Chand, Timothy Robinson, Bharath Mukka and Jianyu Wang, U.S. Bank Cybersecurity Scholarship recipients

UMSL students Shreya Chand (top from left), Timothy Robinson, (bottom from left) Bharath Mukka and Jianyu Wang received U.S. Bank Cybersecurity Scholarships at a virtual ceremony held on Oct. 30. (Screenshots from event)

The word “hacker” typically conjures an image of a dim basement and someone dressed in black furiously typing rows of glowing green code. But cybersecurity student Bharath Mukka imagines something very different.

When he was a third-year computer science major, a friend convinced him to attend a workshop conducted by Sunny Vaghela. That was where Mukka learned about ethical hacking, where hackers attempt to break into computer systems in order to expose and fix weaknesses. As he listened to Vaghela, Mukka’s interest in cybersecurity took root and eventually led him to the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

On Friday, Mukka joined three other UMSL cybersecurity students – Shreya Chand, Timothy Robinson and Jianyu Wang – at the U.S. Bank Cybersecurity Scholarship Awards Ceremony held via Zoom. Each of the students received a $2,500 scholarship to fund their studies.

“We are acknowledging four individuals today who are representative of the future of cybersecurity,” said Murray Kenyon, a cybersecurity partnership executive at U.S. Bank. “We love the fact that the industry is able to give back to the community, and we appreciate the excellent students at UMSL.”

U.S. Bank Cybersecurity Scholarship Awards Ceremony

Twenty-five attendees joined the virtual U.S. Bank Cybersecurity Scholarship Awards Ceremony. (Photo by Dinesh Mirchandani)

Chand, an undergraduate student majoring in information systems and technology with a minor in cybersecurity, was drawn to the field’s growth potential.

“As a woman earning a degree in this venture, I am so grateful to be educated by the professors at UMSL,” she said. “The program has given me the opportunity to be confident and educated. I am looking forward to my future in this field.”

She felt especially honored to receive the U.S. Bank scholarship because she was nominated by faculty members in her department. After graduating, she plans to use her technical and leadership skills in a professional job and eventually earn a PhD.

Like Chand, Robinson is majoring in information systems and technology. His path to a career in cybersecurity began when he was affected by a bank card data breach and became inspired to protect himself and others.

“The scholarship definitely came at the perfect time to help me cover the cost of tuition this semester,” he said. “I’m very grateful to U.S. Bank for that, and it is my hope that U.S. Bank will continue to offer this program to students here at UMSL to help them continue to reach their cybersecurity goals.”

Mukka is in the cybersecurity graduate program and already boasts experience in the field as a cybersecurity engineer at Tata Consultancy Services.

Although he enjoyed working at the company, he aspires to become a penetration tester or a computer forensic examiner.

“In order to develop the skills to work in that area, I chose to pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity with a diversified scope in computer science,” he said. “I came across UMSL and was even offered a scholarship, so without a second thought, I ignored all other universities and chose UMSL right away. The highly knowledgeable professors from the computer science department truly motivate me to achieve my goals.”

Mukka discovered he loved UMSL’s atmosphere and is planning to repay the support he received from scholarships and instructors through giving back to his community.

Like Mukka, Wang – a PhD computer science student who is researching the Internet of Things and edge computing security – felt an immediate connection to UMSL. He was drawn by the top-notch faculty and has spent the last four years working as a research assistant under the professors.

His work is guided by the question of why IoT security breaches often occur but effective defense strategies are delayed, and having a research paper on the subject accepted for publication marks one of his favorite moments. He now has bragging rights for three published papers.

“My career goal is to be a cybersecurity expert who creates intelligent defense solutions that protect IoT systems against attacks and malware,” he said. “With this scholarship, I will be able to fully focus on my studies and research instead of worrying about financial pressure. More importantly, I feel that my effort on the path of cybersecurity is acknowledged. It is a great inspiration for me to achieve my academic and career goals.”

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