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Cybersecurity / Environment / Universities

UD taps defense expert to lead cybersecurity initiative

Starnes Walker has more than 35 years of national defense expertise.

University of Delaware. (Photo by Flickr user Mathieu Plourde, used under a Creative Commons license)

There’s not much room left on the wall in Starnes Walker’s University of Delaware office. It’s covered with awards and commendations from various government agencies.
He’s got a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, he’s held senior management positions in the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security, and he’s spent more than 20 years as an industry expert.
And now he calls the University of Delaware home. Earlier this year, the national defense expert was tapped to head up its new cybersecurity initiative, which focuses primarily on training, education and research.
“Myself and the people that work with me — we work at colleges, as deans and faculty to align the intellectual horsepower to achieve and present ourselves as a real hub for cybersecurity in corporate America and in government,” Walker said.
In September, the National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded the MITRE team — which UD is a part of — a $5 billion award (over 25 years) to support MITRE’s seven federally-funded research and development centers, which are dedicated to enhancing the security of the country’s information systems.
“I’m here to catalyze the capability of the university to better empower the nation’s industry and major industrial sectors, and then working with our current programs and future programs to support government and military,” Walker said.

Starnes Walker. (Courtesy of University of Delaware)

Starnes Walker. (Photo courtesy of University of Delaware)

Walker’s real-world experience has tasked him with assembling and leading security teams centered around the 2009 Christmas Day shoe bomber, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Middle East and the 2006 coal mining disaster in West Virginia.
Walker said it’s important for all citizens to understand the threats and risks that solid cybersecurity can thwart.
“In the old days, plants operated mechanically. Now, everything is done electronically,” Walker said. “GPS satellites — can you imagine if this doesn’t work because someone hacked into it? Or our world timing metrics? It affects everyone.”
In addition to his nationally-focused research work, Walker also works to further programs at UD. At the university, Walker helped to implement a minor program and he will soon present a master’s degree program for approval to the academic senate.
“There’s a shortage of trained people. We’ve got to develop the pipeline of trained people,” he said. “We’ve just created a minor program, not just for engineers and econ students. They’ll take a couple of courses and have a minor in cybersecurity. Everyone needs to have a certain amount of knowledge [about it].”

Companies: Department of Homeland Security / Department of Defense / Department of Energy / University of Delaware

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