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Research for a safer Canada

Queen's University researcher David Skillicorn receives NSERC CREATE to train students to help tackle the country's cybersecurity issues.

David Skiloicorn
Queen's University professor David Skillicorn has received $1.65 million from NSERC to tackle cybersecurity issues.

Queen’s University researcher David Skillicorn is receiving $1.65 million over the next six years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program to provide training for students in cybersecurity.

This is the fifth CREATE grant for Queen’s since the program started in 2013.

“Working with Dr. Skillicorn and his collaborators, 75 graduate students will benefit from unique and transferable learning and training opportunities that will advance our nation’s capacity to address issues of cybersecurity,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).

Using the funding, Dr. Skillicorn will assemble a multi-disciplinary team from multiple fields and institutions to train 75 PhD and Master’s students. The program will address the large skills gap that has limited Canada's government, critical infrastructure industries, businesses, and ordinary Canadians' ability to defend themselves from cyberattacks, cybercrime, and online manipulation such as election interference and cyberbullying.

“Canada trains less than half of the skilled people in these industries that are needed, and this shortfall is getting worse,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “The CREATE program allows us to train 75 Masters and PhD students in critical cybersecurity skills

PhD graduates of the program will conduct leading-edge research to keep Canada safer, and will train the next generation of skilled cybersecurity experts. Master’s graduates will play a key role in solving the urgent and important cybersecurity challenges facing government, critical infrastructure, private industry, and individual Canadians.

Dr. Skillicorn adds graduates of the program may earn jobs in their various areas of focus.

“The program integrates technical skills with the social, legal, and political issues that provide a context,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “All students will participate in exercises that simulate cyber-attacks and defence, and strategic thinking in response to a massive cyber incident. Students will also have internships that expose them to real-world cybersecurity and may suggest research directions for them to pursue.”

Co-applicants include eight Queen’s researchers from Electrical and Computing Engineering, School of Computing, Law, Policy Studies, and Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy, researchers from the Royal Military College of Canada, and 20 collaborators from a variety of areas including IBM, Public Safety Canada, Royal Military College of Canada and the Department of National Defence.

For more information, visit the NSERC website.