The Future Is Bright: What LSU’s New, Prestigious Cybersecurity Designation by the NSA Means for Students, Louisiana

September 26, 2022

LSU announced that it has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, or CAE-CO, by the National Security Agency, or NSA. It’s an honor shared among only 22 universities and colleges in the nation. Here, research students and alumni in the LSU cybersecurity program speak to the immediate impacts this recognition will have on them, on LSU and on Louisiana, where they all grew up.

Lauren Pace

LSU doctoral candidate Lauren Pace from Covington

Lauren Pace from Covington, received her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., in 2021 and is now working toward a Ph.D. in cybersecurity at LSU with support from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarship for Service program.

Why did you choose to study cybersecurity?

I always had a passion for cybersecurity because I felt like I could help people. The opportunities feel endless, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s such a lucrative field. 

Why LSU?

I always heard great things about LSU from my professors at Southeastern. I also loved that there was a great school near my hometown that could provide such great opportunities. 

What opportunities will you now have that you didn’t have before?

Getting CAE-CO is incredibly exciting. It will lead to an influx of students from all over the South and across the world as Louisiana becomes known for producing the most highly qualified cyber professionals. As students, we will gain access to fascinating research opportunities and government support that weren’t previously available to us. It’s amazing to think about how much our cybersecurity program will grow in the coming years. Organizations across the country might also become interested in doing business in Louisiana just because of the caliber of cybersecurity expertise we produce.

What is your cybersecurity research about?

I am developing a new tool, called HookTracer, that can do automated malware detection with help from artificial intelligence and machine learning.


LaSean Salmon

LSU student LaSean Salmon from Metairie

LaSean Salmon from Metairie, is an LSU computer science senior on track to graduate this December to then pursue a master’s degree, also at LSU, with support from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarship for Service program.

Why did you choose to study cybersecurity?

As a kid, cyber threats were something I watched from the sidelines. Then, a little over a year ago, I picked up a digital forensics textbook. I haven’t stopped learning since!

Why LSU?

I saw a very promising future for me here; seeing the bar steadily raised. 

How will LSU’s CAE-CO designation make a difference for you in your own life and career?

CAE-CO is life-changing. I don’t think it should be viewed as anything less than that. Having it stamped on my diploma will be eye-opening for those who don’t realize just how many amazing things LSU cybersecurity students are accomplishing behind the scenes. It makes me incredibly proud and confident that people immediately will know that my degree is valuable, and my skills are viable.


What is your current cybersecurity research about? 

I am doing digital forensic analysis of Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE, tracking devices, used to discover the location of people and things, and internet-connected IoT devices. There needs to be people like me poking and prodding at them until their security is up to par. Plus, finding flaws is fun. Seeing how we can improve in everything we do is fun.


Christopher Bowen

LSU master's student Christopher Bowen from New Orleans

Christopher Bowen from New Orleans, is pursuing an accelerated master’s degree in computer science with a focus on cybersecurity at LSU, with support from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarship for Service program.

Why did you choose to study cybersecurity?

I want to solve problems that don’t have straightforward answers.

Why LSU?

TOPS offered a great opportunity for an affordable education. Also, I wanted to stay in-state.

LSU is the only university in Louisiana to hold the CAE-CO designation. How will this serve the state overall?

I think that with the designation, the state will grow from the ground up. Younger students across the state can now be confident they have a path to state-of-the-art cybersecurity training close to home, and with the next generation of cybersecurity graduates, businesses and local and state government will be better protected. On a personal level, CAE-CO validates my degree, which will help me in being hired. With this designation, potential employers will have no doubt about the skills I’ve developed at LSU.

What is your current cybersecurity research about? 

I’m deeply invested in helping to develop the most widely-used and free memory forensics framework, Volatility 3. I’m working on a Windows plugin that can identify malicious programs and help investigators know if a system was compromised.


Karley Waguespack

LSU student Karley Waguespack from New Iberia

Karley Waguespack from New Iberia, is an LSU computer science senior set to graduate next May to then pursue a Ph.D., also at LSU.

Why did you choose to study cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity can be deeply technical and esoteric. Sometimes, it requires extensive knowledge of technology that’s considered to be archaic. This intrigued me because of the challenge it presented and because of the importance cybersecurity holds in government and law enforcement.

Why LSU?

I chose LSU because it is Louisiana’s flagship university. Also, because it’s easy to collaborate on research on a national and even global scale as a student at LSU.

How do you see LSU’s cybersecurity program changing as a result of CAE-CO designation?

Outstanding cybersecurity students and faculty will be drawn to the program, which will bring about even higher standards and increase the value of my experience here. Cybersecurity students will get to collaborate closely with government agencies and acquire experience they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. It also adds credibility to my degree and provides us with even more resources to work on solving difficult cybersecurity problems plaguing our communities.

What is your current cybersecurity research about? 

I am working on acquiring access on a variety of circuit boards so that their memory can be extracted and analyzed. The skills I am learning are applicable in industrial control systems security, which is an area I am thinking of focusing on in graduate school. Not many cybersecurity professionals are well-versed in this area, while it matters greatly to industries and businesses in Louisiana.


Charles Glass

LSU alumnus Charles Glass from New Orleans

Charles Glass from New Orleans, received his LSU master’s degree in computer science with a focus on cybersecurity in May. As a former Scholarship for Service student, he is now working at LSU as a cybersecurity instructor while pondering a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, also at LSU.

Why did you choose to study cybersecurity?

I could not think of another field that offers the same level of continuous challenge paired with impact.

Why LSU?

Growing up only an hour away and having family who went to LSU, I knew LSU was going to be a good fit. The atmosphere and the opportunities for growth made LSU the only choice.

Louisiana is home to much of the nation’s most critical energy infrastructure as well as under-resourced local governments and schools, which are prime targets for cybercrime. How can LSU’s CAE-CO designation help?

CAE-CO designation elevates Louisiana as a whole by attracting the best talent in the nation, both faculty and students. As a result, LSU will produce graduates who are poised to improve the cybersecurity posture of all facets of the Louisiana economic ecosystem, both public and private, and that talent will be dispersed throughout the workforce across the entire state. The future is bright.

What is your cybersecurity research about?

Apple has moved to a completely new architecture in all of their computers that relies on Apple silicon chips instead of Intel processors. However, for compatibility with Intel-based apps, Apple has added a translator, called Rosetta. My research is on how this can allow not only legacy Mac software but also legacy Mac malware to run. I use memory forensics to learn how.