Excellence in Cybersecurity

David Arnold joined Illinois Institute of Technology as an undergraduate student. Now, eight years later, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees already under his belt, he is in the final stages of his doctoral program.

As a student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, David has excelled in his studies and research and has gone above and beyond to create new opportunities for students interested in computer engineering.

In 2018 David founded CyberHawks, a student organization that offers hands-on experience in computer engineering by participating in projects, seminars, and high-level competitions that offer invaluable career experience. 

“We wanted to create a space where students could explore cybersecurity and practice their skills in real-world scenarios. However, we noticed that no student organizations fulfilled that need and so we decided to found our own,” he says.

David has served as president of the organization for almost five years, including during the group’s impressive success of winning its first-ever competition, which was against 65 teams from across the United States at the 2022 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Cyber Games.

He has also collaborated with Walter and Harriet Filmer Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering Jafar Saniie in designing and teaching the department’s new introductory cybersecurity course.

“We were concerned that our first- and second-year students weren’t receiving enough exposure to cybersecurity and wanted a course that would help them gain experience for their summer internship hunts,” he says.

David’s doctoral work at the Embedded Computing and Signal Processing (ECASP) Research Laboratory, under Saniie’s supervision, has focused on developing cybersecurity solutions for critical infrastructure such as energy and emergency services. He received a prestigious U. S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s Integrated University Program graduate fellowship to support the work in 2020.

“Over the last five years, we’ve published work in applying machine learning for detecting cyberattacks and side-channel methods for transmitting information in case of an emergency,” he says.

Recently, David has been the recipient of two highly distinguished Illinois Tech awards: a 2023 Sigma Xi award in the student research award (graduate student) category and a 2024 Clinton E. Stryker Distinguished Service award for his leadership with the CyberHawks.

David says his plan for the future is to work in cybersecurity engineering and continue to offer mentorship to the CyberHawks team.

“I am excited to transfer everything I’ve learned through my Ph.D. and work with the CyberHawks to real-world situations,” he says.