International students spend virtual summer at RIT

Messenger Post Media
RIT's Cybersecurity Visiting Student Research program brings together 12 students from around the world to discuss their research projects and different cultures.

Student researchers from around the world got a glimpse of what Rochester Institute of Technology’s Global Cybersecurity Institute has to offer during a virtual program this summer.

The Cybersecurity Visiting Student Research program hosted 12 graduate and undergraduate students throughout the summer to explore new cyber research and share their cultural experiences. Visiting students came from Italy, the Netherlands, India, Taiwan, Poland, the U.K. and the U.S.

The 10-week program, led by GCI and RIT Global, initially intended to bring global students to Rochester for the summer. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, organizers decided to run the program virtually.

“We’re aiming to create a rich, culturally diverse experience for these students who would not normally get the chance to come together and brainstorm about what they know,” said Shanchieh “Jay” Yang, GCI director of global outreach and professor of computer engineering. “RIT’s GCI has a lot to offer, including our great faculty experts, and we want to share that with the world.”

Students were mentored by faculty advisers and had the chance to immerse themselves in tackling a cybersecurity research problem. Researchers looked at privacy situations, cryptography, machine learning and artificial intelligence for cybersecurity analytics. In the three-story facility on campus, RIT is working to address the global cybersecurity crisis by conducting more research, education, and professional training and development.

“I decided to join because I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet other students coming from all over the world and to experience academic research at another college,” said Azqa Nadeem, a doctoral student at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “Even though the program went fully online, we had a lot of engagement with each other, professors and student clubs from RIT.”

Nadeem, who is from Pakistan originally, worked with Yang to use sequential machine learning and data analytics to extract attack behaviors from intrusion alert data. They hope to find similarities and differences in the strategies used by attackers to deploy smarter defense mechanisms.

Each week, students led presentations and discussions about their research projects. Students also took part in professional and personal enrichment workshops and a weekly Tiger Tea Hour.

Andrea Corsini, a master’s student at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, said the social hour was a good time to share cultures and talk about food habits, differences between their academic lives and their hobbies.

“I would definitely recommend it to other students,” Corsini said. “I learned many technical things about the cybersecurity world. On the other side, it’s made me grow as a person.”

Corsini is developing network intrusion detection systems — programs that detect malicious traffic based on deep learning models. He always dreamed of studying abroad, but said the virtual program was a good alternative due to the circumstances.

When countries started closing their borders, Sudheendra Raghav Neela, an undergraduate student at Mahindra University in India, wondered what would happen to the CyberVSR program.

“This summer was looking bleak initially when India went into lockdown; however, every Tuesday and Thursday has brought me back to life,” Neela said. “I want to thank the team from the bottom of my heart for organizing this.”

For Martin Kinkead, a doctoral student at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, the program was a way to further his research in adversarial learning. He plans to continue working with his RIT faculty mentors.

Organizers hope to host the VSR program again, possibly in-person.