New niche course meets workforce needs of aviation and space industries

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University is breaking new ground by optimizing student readiness for a dual-purpose workforce need in the space and aerospace industries. The new Purdue Aviation and Space Cybersecurity course equips engineering students with highly valued cybersecurity skills, while providing aeronautical and astronautical engineering know-how to computer science and cybersecurity majors.

The course, which was launched in response to a need expressed by the industry, represents a first.

“Aero and astro-engineering graduates typically don’t have a strong understanding of cyber risks and vulnerabilities in the same way our computer science or cyber security graduates do,” said Joel Rasmus, director of CERIAS, the Purdue Center. for Education Research in Information Assurance. and Security, which responded to industry members of the CERIAS Strategic Partnership Program by forming the new course. “Transversely, our cyber-focused students have not been prepared to understand the technical principles of size, weight and power, or other engineering specifics. No one else has this kind of formalized, hands-on educational program. With this new program, our graduates are better prepared to make significant technical contributions early in their careers. »

The need for this dual expertise is great and growing. Avionics systems – all aircraft systems that combine aviation and electronics – include communications, navigation, display and management of multiple systems, and literally hundreds of systems that perform individual functions. Each of these systems and functions is a potential target for malicious adversaries.

Purdue, which has a long history of research collaboration with the space and aerospace industries, is uniquely positioned to prepare students for dual proficiency. CERIAS, known worldwide for its leadership in cyber and cyber-physical security, supports more than 156 researchers from cross-disciplinary disciplines working on more than 150 research projects. His research contributes to Purdue’s fourth-largest U.S. cybersecurity education program ( and its highly ranked U.S. College of Science computer science program. When this program is combined with Purdue’s fifth program in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and other top 10 engineering programs such as Industrial, Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Workforce Preparation already highly ranked work moves to a new level.

Boeing is actively participating in the new Purdue program.

“We enthusiastically support Purdue’s launch of the Aviation and Space Cybersecurity Course,” said Jeffrey Holland, Boeing research and technology. “Aerospace faces unique cyber threats and limited design choices. Graduate students with this specialized awareness will benefit both industry and students. »

The course is organized around solving real problems. Using problem scenarios provided by industry members, teams of five to seven students work on solutions with Purdue faculty and industry mentors. However, peer-to-peer learning is equally important to the course.

“We want students to learn from their peers outside of their normal realm,” Rasmus said. “Cybersecurity, Computer Science, Data Science, Industrial Engineering, Aero and Astro Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering students will all learn from each other while addressing a specific industry concern.”

For the current inaugural semester, students are tackling a project sponsored by Boeing. Their charge – loosely described – is to develop an algorithm that builds on industry-accepted aeronautical engineering principles while meeting a measurable cybersecurity need.

“For example, it can be easy for a cybersecurity student to address cyber risk by adding specialized equipment,” Rasmus said. “But on an aero platform, this recommendation must also determine whether the weight of the equipment requires engine adjustments or whether it requires space that will remove passenger seating or impact fuel efficiency. This project-based course has the potential to provide new technological solutions for the space or aeronautical industries while providing a cross-training for students who will be better prepared to work both individually or within development teams within the framework of their postgraduate employment.

Rasmus discussed the importance of this new direction for the future of the space industry at the Space Summit October 19-20 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sponsored by Space ISAC (Information Sharing and Analysis Center), the summit focused on “Securing the Value of Space”.

The importance of this dual-purpose course is highlighted by Acting Dean of Engineering Mark Lundstrom, who is also the Don and Carol Scifres Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Our strengths in cross-disciplinary research and learning make Purdue the ideal choice to meet this industry need,” Lundstrom said. “Purdue graduates are used to performing at high levels in the aero/astro industries as well as cybersecurity, so building on those traditions with this cross-functional program will give our students an even greater advantage in their careers. post-Purdue.

Purdue faculty and industry members are considering ways to develop and expand the new aero-cyber educational workforce initiative. In the short term, a certification program is envisaged.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a leading public research institution that develops practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the past five years as one of the 10 most innovative universities in the United States by US News & World Report, Purdue delivers groundbreaking research and breakthrough discoveries. Committed to hands-on, online, real-world learning, Purdue provides transformative education for all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, allowing more students than ever to graduate debt-free. Learn how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer/media contact: Amy Raley, [email protected]

Source: Joel Rasmus, [email protected]

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