A new federal grant will help University of Houston-Victoria students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics prepare for internships and defense-related careers with the U.S. Department of Defense.

UHV recently received a $198,028 Department of Defense National Defense Education STEM grant in collaboration with Alabama A&M University and Navajo Technical University. The project is titled, “A Three-Step Approach Providing a Pipeline of Skilled Minority STEM Professionals for the Department of Defense Workforce.” UHV’s involvement in the project will start this coming fall and will end in May 2023.

“This is very exciting news for UHV as we are beginning to see more opportunities to study STEM-related programs at the university,” said Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Since UHV is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a university with a large minority population, partnering with a historically Black university and a tribal university is a powerful and interesting partnership that will open doors into the world of STEM for our students.”

The initiative will increase awareness about Department of Defense science and technology areas to better prepare students for technical careers in national security and defense, according to a Department of Defense news release. The three universities involved in the project also will bolster the number and quality of eligible minority STEM students participating in internships and the Department of Defense workforce.

The grant will be used to train students and for research and development, said Hardik Gohel, a UHV assistant professor of computer science. Gohel will be leading the project as principal investigator at UHV. The first part of the program will involve soft skills and technical training for a semester for students in the program. Selected students who successfully complete the training will each be compensated $1,000.

Students also will be recruited and educated in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and other areas. The grant supports student summer internships at the Department of Defense and industry employers, Gohel said. Students in the program will be compensated $5,000 each for their research efforts after their internships.

Gohel has research experience in artificial intelligence, and his projects have included cyber test automation and monitoring, big data for security intelligence, and trustworthy cyberspace for security and privacy of social media.

“This collaborative grant is a great opportunity to showcase the research and training we are doing here at UHV,” Gohel said. “The defense market is looking for people who are well trained in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and advanced technical research. This project will help students prepare for careers in those areas.”

Up to five UHV graduate students studying computer science will be eligible to train in the program. Research ideas for the project include studying vulnerabilities of security systems and research on how artificial intelligence can be used to test and monitor different government systems.

“The primary benefit is this grant will help students in the programs get jobs after they graduate,” Gohel said. “This grant is a great result of UHV’s growing efforts in STEM and becoming a destination university.”

To learn more about the project, contact Gohel at gohelh@uhv.edu.

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