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Ritchie School Cybersecurity Students Enhance Education at Black Hat Conference

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Owyn Cooper

Communications and Events Specialist

Blog  • Article  •

When the academic year shifts to summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn and expand knowledge within specific fields. Four Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science students and alums were selected for scholarships and sent to Las Vegas to be at the forefront of cybersecurity with professionals from all over the world at the Black Hat conference. 

Black Hat USA is an internationally recognized cybersecurity event conference, providing technical and relevant information security research. The event was multi-day and took place from August 5, 2023 through August 10, 2023 and featured attendees and speakers from over 200 countries. Professor Nate Evans shared the scholarship opportunity with his students, and three students and one alum were able to attend: Angelica Shelman, Likhitha Yalavarthi, Sarah Nalubwama, and Bradford Lowe.  

Shelman, a current student working on her Master’s in Cybersecurity said, “Being around other like-minded individuals and people who are already in the career as a cybersecurity professional, and the people who had the same similar interests as me, it was really amazing.” 

“Initially, I was a bit nervous seeing various people across the world and all the other parts of the United States,” said Likhitha Yalavarthi, also a Master’s student in the Cybersecurity program. “(But) my experience at the conference was outstanding. I would say that was the biggest foundation to my upcoming career. All the sessions, keynotes, meet-ups that I have attended are worth attending.” 

Over the multi-day conference, there were several briefings over a variety of topics where the attendees could pick and choose what they wanted to learn about. “Cybersecurity is a broad and exciting field filled with plenty of opportunity,” said Bradford Lowe, class of 2023, who is now working as a cloud security engineer.  

One of the emerging trends discussed was artificial intelligence (AI). “(The conference) featured multiple AI-themed announcements… Getting to know attack surface management is also the nicest thing when we look into cloud security issues,” said Yalavarthi.  

With AI being at the forefront of so many conversations, the attendees were able to experience a variety of perspectives. “A lot of people are either for it or against it. It was interesting to hear the different sides of people who are all forward-thinking then to hear the other side of people who oppose it… Both sides were covered,” said Shelman.  

“I’m currently working as a cloud security engineer and most of the briefings I attended were related to that space,” said Lowe. “I graduated from the Ritchie School last June, but I used my foundational education I gained there to better understand the industry topics at the conference.”  

Beyond the briefings offered, Black Hat USA featured the opportunity to meet and collaborate with cybersecurity professionals from all over the world beyond the talks. Shelman was able to connect with a cloud CEO from Australia while at lunch before the conference, and all students who attended were able to network. “While at Black Hat, I was offered valuable networking opportunities with cybersecurity professionals, experts, and peers,” said Sarah Nalubwama, currently working on her Master’s in Cybersecurity.  

“It was an eye-opener, in this degree at DU, (to see) how renowned it is and how people are interested in our skill sets,” said Shelman.  

The conference happens every year, and scholarship applications happen in the spring. The students and alumni who attended valued their experience and recommended it to other Ritchie School students.  

 “The knowledge and insights I gained from attending Black Hat, including exposure to the latest trends and developments in cybersecurity, will enrich my understanding of the cybersecurity field,” said Nalubwama.  

“I would encourage Cyber and AI students and the students from other majors as well to attend global conferences like Black Hat or any such conferences at least once in their student life,” said Yalavarthi. 

The Ritchie School offers an M.S. in Cybersecurity where students can take opportunities like this and thrive.

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