It’s rare for anyone to receive a behind-the-scenes education of how the country’s cyber operations work. But for some Panthers interning at MITRE this summer, this is their reality. A total of eight FIU students have internships with MITRE, developing their skills in cyber, computer engineering and software.
MITRE is a not-for-profit organization that works in the public interest in partnership with federal, state and local governments, as well as industry and academia. Simply put, MITRE’s mission is to solve problems for a safer world. FIU and MITRE established a strategic partnership last year to perform joint R&D, develop student talent and promote innovation.
“We find ways of meeting not just today’s challenges, but the challenges that are emerging. The challenges that are going to jeopardize the health, safety, security and financial prosperity of our citizens and the country,” said Vice President for Strategic Engagement and Partnerships at MITRE James Cook.
MITRE has technical, operational and managerial expertise across a variety of subject areas. Examples include using computer analytics to identify rogue pharmacies that are filling fraudulent prescriptions and figuring out how to improve GPS signals so that commercial airplanes can navigate safely.
“The MITRE partnership has provided us with an opportunity to broaden the pathway for our students to access high-quality internships. The numbers of interns and recent hires at MITRE reflect that we have been successful in leveraging this relationship for the benefit of our students and their ability to be involved in innovative research and development while achieving MITRE’s mission of solving problems for a safer world,” said Senior Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs Elizabeth Bejar.
Although most internships have been remote during the coronavirus pandemic, the quality of the experience has been excellent, says Shannon, an intern at MITRE. She has conducted research on a wide range of topics, from location analysis to social media analytics. (Shannon cannot reveal her last name due to future cybersecurity concerns).
“I don’t know if it’s just the quarantine and everybody’s stuck inside, but everyone has been so happy to talk to me. It’s been a really great experience,” Shannon said.
While researching social media analytics at MITRE, Shannon reached out to employees for their expertise. Ten employees answered her call. She has even been able to talk at length with the head of MITRE’s artificial intelligence area.
"I talked with her for a long time about facial recognition and tattoo recognition and things of that nature. It’s that kind of first-hand experience that I wouldn’t get to meet anywhere else,” Shannon said.
Fellow MITRE intern Angel Castro ’20 has long had a passion for cybersecurity. Now, after earning his computer engineering degree in the spring, he is picking up hands-on experience in defensive cyber operations at MITRE before returning to the university in the fall for his master’s degree.
A recent virtual cyber day where the employees discussed projects they are working on made Castro excited for the future of his career.
“It makes me realize that I have so much more to learn and I’m excited to learn that from MITRE’s employees,” Castro said.
For master's student Genevieve Liberte, interning at MITRE has expanded her perspective about working in cybersecurity.
"In academia, things seem to be more straightforward. You're just focused on producing the research that you're working towards. But in MITRE's government workspace, there's a lot of administrative discussion, a lot of talk about synergized strategies, things like that," Liberte said.
The FIU-MITRE partnership promises to be a mutually beneficial relationship between two forward-thinking institutions for years to come.
“We are constantly changing and we’re constantly leaning forward, and I think the FIU team is as well," Cook said. "[They are] thinking about things like what new degree programs need to be created that really address the changing nature of work and challenges to the safety of our nation and the world. We like that."