An Interview with Dr. Nate Evans, Director for Cybersecurity
Dr. Nate Evans, Director for Cybersecurity at the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, stepped into the role this past summer and is dedicated to keeping DU’s cybersecurity curriculum on par with the latest industry standards. After graduating from DU in 2008 with his master’s degree in Computer Science, Dr. Evans went on to receive his doctorate in Computer Science from the Technical University of Munich. In 2017, Dr. Evans said he became interested in leaving industry to return to academia, “I asked somebody for a letter of recommendation [at the Ritchie School] and they said, ‘Hey, we have an opening for a position. Why don’t you apply here?’ So I did that. And that's how I got back into the University of Denver.”
With over a decade of experience in the field, Dr. Evans has seen how the landscape of cybersecurity has changed dramatically over the years with the introduction of new cloud-based technology and smartphones. “You used to have… all your computers in a room somewhere and the cybersecurity would just be making sure that those computers are patched and you were reasonably safe inside of your own company network. In the early days of the cloud that was sort of like the Wild West, like things were very wide open, and there were a lot of security issues that people had to jump on,” Evans explained. In addition to cloud storage, Dr. Evans mentioned how personal smartphones and other smart devices that form the new Internet of Things (IOT) have made cybersecurity harder as devices are constantly sharing and exchanging data.
This constant innovation in technology has meant that combating obsolescence in DU’s curriculum is an active and ongoing project that Dr. Evans has dedicated himself to ensuring students of the Ritchie School’s cybersecurity program are receiving the best and most relevant education that they can.
In a credit to this effort, Dr. Evans detailed several updates DU’s cybersecurity program has recently undergone to keep up with the changing technological landscape.
The C++ coding language has been replaced with Python instruction and new courses were developed to replace previous offerings that were no longer as relevant. In addition, current course offerings are updated every year as a part of the accreditation process to ensure the salience and relevance of material.
For example, Dr. Evans highlighted that network security courses incorporate cloud security alongside on-device security and ethical hacking courses focus on attacks that have happened in the past couple of years to ensure students are learning about the most current threats in the field. These courses are coupled with the newest certifications that recruiters in the industry are looking for when hiring. Altogether, Dr. Evans said that the cybersecurity program at DU strives to produce well-rounded, highly-skilled graduates that may go into multiple computer science fields with their degree from the Ritche School.
“There’s a huge demand for anybody in cyber right now. It’s a field where there’s just constant demand, and there’s just not enough people.”
Dr. Evans went into detail about various sectors of industry that Ritchie School graduates have entered. Positions as cybersecurity analysts, who are on the “frontlines” looking to see if cybersecurity attacks are occurring on a network, are the most common positions for graduates of the Ritchie School. But Evans outlined, “We’ve had people go on to be reverse engineers, where you’re pulling apart malware to see how it operates… Or penetration testing [red-teaming], where you’re acting in the role of an attacker to try to figure out what vulnerabilities exist in a network… We’ve had people go on to be regular software engineers.”
The diversity of roles graduates from DU’s cybersecurity program are able to take on is a signifier of the degree's holistic, interdisciplinary approach. Beyond learning the tools and techniques of cybersecurity, students also dive into the technical side of programming, allowing them to pursue positions in this field as well.
For those less interested in the technical side, Dr. Evans added that University College also offers a cybersecurity program that does not dive as far into computer science and programming. This allows students to tailor their education to their specific career goals in the cybersecurity field.
Above all, Dr. Evans wished to highlight that the Ritchie School’s cybersecurity program is a “technical computer science cyber program, and not just a bootcamp.” This focus on the technical in addition to cybersecurity tools is what distinguishes the program from others. “We’re really trying to make well-rounded, knowledgeable people who are able to take a career path in whatever way they want,” Evans said.
Anyone interested in pursuing a degree in cybersecurity at the University of Denver can look here for more information about the programs offered.