On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science welcomed Jay Johnson of Argonne National Laboratory to campus to talk with students about working in Information Technology (IT) at a national laboratory. Jay, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Lewis in 1998 and a Master of Science in Information Security in 2007, described the unique challenges facing IT workers at a place of Argonne’s profile and stature. Because it is a national laboratory that conducts cutting-edge and potentially sensitive scientific research, it is a prime target for hackers. Consequently, every IT effort, from software development to system administration to process control to data collection and analysis, must vigilantly focus on ensuring the security of these cyber systems. Jay described the software engineering processes the developers he helps manage follow, how they continuously document and evaluate system requirements, and how they rigorously test the systems they create, particularly for the kinds of unexpected inputs cyber attackers are likely to launch at Argonne’s systems. It’s a tall order creating software systems that can both deliver their required functionality and keep operating securely and reliably in a constantly adversarial environment. It’s Jay’s and his team’s efforts that help keep the lab’s systems humming.
Jay is an outstanding friend of the Department. He has taught a number of undergraduate Computer Science courses and graduate Information Security courses for the Department. He is also a founding member of the Computer Science Advisory Board. In this role, he serves an important function helping the faculty of the Department keep its curriculum current, its laboratory facilities well-equipped, and its students well-positioned for enriching internships and fulfilling careers. With today’s presentation, Jay gave our Computer Science students a very clear picture of the diversity of IT opportunities available to Computer Scientists, from software development to networking infrastructure to cyber security. He indicated that what the industry most needs is strong technical expertise. With its broad but deep coverage of computing theory and practice, that’s precisely what Computer Science gives its students.
The Department regularly brings alumni and other industry executives to campus to give students a clear picture of how their educational efforts will bear fruit in their careers. This is an important aspect of what we do. Students stay engaged when they know that the skills they are learning find daily application in industry. Jay’s talk conveyed that message loud and clear.