Anika Anwar

I recently completed my Ph.D. as part of the NSERC Cybersecurity Create program at Queen’s University. It was more than just an educational pursuit; it was a transformative experience for me that profoundly enhanced my expertise in cybersecurity. 

The curriculum’s breadth was remarkable, spanning a diverse set of topics from policy development to malware analysis, incident response, and network security. It included a unique and intriguing social science course that explored the complexities of cybersecurity in our digital age, examining the crucial role of governments and covering topics like cyberterrorism, cyberespionage, and cyber warfare. These subjects were not just taught in theory but were brought to life through practical applications in courses offered at both Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. This expansive coverage of subjects significantly broadened my knowledge base and perspective. 

What set this program apart was its holistic approach to cybersecurity education. A particularly valuable aspect of the program was the practical experience I gained through my internship at Irdeto, Canada. This experience allowed me to apply my theoretical knowledge in cybersecurity. Interacting with fellow researchers and industry professionals broadened my horizons and introduced me to diverse perspectives and interdisciplinary projects. This network has become an invaluable part of my professional life. 

Moreover, the program provided numerous opportunities to refine our skills. I had the honor of participating in the Google CSR Explore Mentorship Project and presenting in the Cybersecurity workshops for Women. These experiences were not just about sharing knowledge but also about learning from others and growing as a professional. Staying abreast of the latest industry trends was a commitment the program did not take lightly. This ensured that my education was cutting-edge and relevant, preparing me for the ever-evolving field of cybersecurity. 

Among the many highlights, the most impactful was working with my supervisor, Prof. Mohammad Zulkernine. An exceptional mentor, Prof. Zulkernine’s guidance was instrumental in my development. His wisdom and supportive approach were invaluable, making my academic journey both challenging and incredibly rewarding. 

The NSERC Cybersecurity Create program at Queen’s University is a program I fully recommend. It offers a challenging and supportive environment that prepares you for a successful career in cybersecurity, giving you the necessary knowledge and skills for a constantly evolving field. For anyone serious about making a difference in the field of cybersecurity, this program is an outstanding opportunity.

Henry Van Herk

Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I had not really considered applying to a Master’s program. However, when I learned about the NSERC CREATE Cybersecurity Program at Queen’s, I was immediately interested. Throughout the MSc by research program, I developed my skillset through my research, various courses through Queen’s and RMC, and cybersecurity exercises.

Under the outstanding supervision of Dr. David Skillicorn, I successfully defended my thesis, which tackled detecting suicidal ideation in incel forums. Throughout this research, I constantly improved on my technical skills, but most importantly, problem solving with constant feedback and guidance.

One of the great things about the program, which stood out from others I had applied to, was the internship with one of their government partners. I spent twelve weeks with the Department of National Defence, where I worked on a sentiment analytics project, which tied in nicely with the course work and research I had been doing. I had a great experience with the team there and am still in contact with my supervisor on a regular basis.

Additionally, I loved the freedom to choose from a wide range of electives to fill the course requirements. I learned a lot from the assignments and really enjoyed the projects and presentations we had to do in my cryptography, and cyber space & policing courses. On top of this I partook in the tabletop exercise. Along with other members of the program we played different government agencies, and it was a great way to simulate how and what they might do when faced with a cyber incident.

Since completing the NSERC CREATE Cybersecurity Program at Queen’s, I have started working in a role that I not only enjoy, but in which I am able to apply what I learned throughout my studies daily. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who has any level of interest in cybersecurity!

Ian Pepin

I recently completed my MSc. as part of the NSERC CREATE Cybersecurity program. The program allowed me to develop my leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, which I frequently use frequently in my current career.

One of the aspects of the CREATE program I enjoyed the most was the different cybersecurity courses available to us. Cybersecurity is a broad field and there are many options we can explore, from cybersecurity in AI to applied cryptography. I was also able to take a social science course at RMC that focused on cyberwarfare in today’s geopolitical landscape.

For the past two years, I worked under the supervision of Dr. Farhana Zulkernine and Dr. Furkan Alaca. Their guidance and expertise helped me throughout my research, where I implemented a cryptography-based scheme for medical data analytics.

The program has many industry partners where students can complete internships to gain real-life experience in the cybersecurity field. I completed my internship at the Department of National Defense (DND), and the experience I gained has helped me get a job in a team that implements secure authentication solutions for one of our clients.

I believe the CREATE Cybersecurity program is beneficial to anyone who has an interest in cybersecurity and the willingness to make a difference in the field.

Aawista Chaudhry

I was admitted into the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program’s Master’s thesis stream in 2019 and graduated in 2021. This was following my successful completion of a “qualifying year” within Queen’s University School of Computing. This program offers students from a multitude of backgrounds (such as my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Biology) to complete a one-year “accelerated undergraduate” program and garter the necessary foundational skills in computer science. Coming in with no coding experience, this program taught me multiple programming languages, algorithms, and data structures, allowing me to successfully complete my Master’s degree.

The NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program consisted of a mix of academic and experiential learning that facilitated my transition into cybersecurity as a career. There were many interesting academic courses that provided the necessary foundations in technical and theoretical cybersecurity concepts. The program covered multiple areas such as forensics, policy, malware, incident response and network security, offered both at Queen’s University and Royal Military Collage. I worked closely with my professors to customize my course deliverables to my research area of interest. The professors were always accessible and very well connected within the field. This allowed me to build upon my knowledge base and simultaneously work towards completing my thesis-based Master’s.

The strong emphasis placed on experiential learning experiences throughout the program was highly useful.  Developing business (soft) skills was facilitated through various workshops, seminars and courses that taught communication, presentation, and writing skills. A tabletop exercise was also conduced in partnership with IBM to simulate a cyber incident, and we played roles of various government bodies to understand how Canada would respond to a cyber incident. This high-pressured scenario was one of my fondest experiences in the program.

The final component of the program involved doing an internship within the industry, which I completed with Deloitte Canada. My learning experiences from the program immediately benefited me in performing as a Cybersecurity Consultant. The program positioned me to quickly grasp new frameworks and concepts, and hit the ground running during my time with Deloitte. Overall, the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program provides a unique opportunity for individuals from diverse backgrounds looking to transition into a cybersecurity career. Being one of the first of its kind, it provides the necessary learning to become a well-rounded cybersecurity professional within any specialization. 

Lama Moukahal

I recently completed my Ph.D. as part of the NSERC Cybersecurity Create program.  I have spent over three years in the program, which helped me build valuable skills, including project management, leadership, and  communication skills, that I am currently employing in my career.

In terms of cybersecurity knowledge, the program offers fundamental courses that broaden my experience in the area. One interesting aspect of the Cybersecurity Create program is that it is not limited to technical courses only. I took a social science course that helped me explore and assess the digitized world cybersecurity challenges and the role of governments. We covered various topics,  including cyberterrorism and cyberespionage, cybercrime, cyberwar, and counterterrorism.

The program offered great experiential learning opportunities and helped me make crucial professional connections. As part of the program, I had an internship at Irdeto, Canada, which prepared me for real-world cybersecurity challenges. The industry partners gave us valuable and constructive feedback on our research. We successfully designed a vulnerability-oriented fuzz testing framework patented and published in IEEE       Transaction on Reliability Journal. In collaboration with Irdeto, we also published several other papers in      reputable venues (e.g., IEEE Internet of Things Journal and the International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE) conference).

Undoubtedly, the most valuable experience I had was working with my supervisor Prof. Mohammad Zulkernine whose guidance and profound knowledge helped me make informed decisions that shaped my research.

Thanks to all the skills I earned in this program, I am currently working at Security Compass as a Senior Security Researcher. I advise anyone seeking a professional career in cybersecurity, whether in the industry or academia, to join the CREATE Cybersecurity Program.

Hannah Ruuth

As a Master’s of Public Administration student, the CREATE program provided me with the training to be successful in a non-technical cybersecurity position. By taking two courses at RMC, I was able to expand my knowledge and understanding of cyber threats. These courses provided me with the necessary background for my internship with the National Cybercrime Coordination Centre (NC3). After completing my internship, NC3 offered me a full-time contract position.

Outside of work, I am using my training from the CREATE program to educate young Canadians on cyber safety. I designed a 90 minute workshop for my Girl Guides (ages 9-11) on cyber safety. If you would like me to send you materials or lead a workshop for a youth/children’s group, do not hesitate to reach out.

I would recommend the NSERC CREATE program to any student who is interested in cybersecurity. Even without technical training (coding etc) the program helped me understand cyber space and how everyday Canadians are impacted.

Scarlett Taviss

I found the CREATE program to be a very easy way to learn the essentials of the cybersecurity field, especially as a newcomer to this side of the IT world like I was. Having graduated, I find the required cybersecurity courses in the program follow very similar education topics that many of the key certifications cover, giving me peace of mind that the material I learned was relevant and useful in the real world. I really enjoyed the ability to take courses at RMC because it allowed me to specialize and gain hands-on experience into some more technical topics within cybersecurity I was interested in. I was able to find a position in the field while I was finishing my degree and although every job will be different, the CREATE program definitely gave me a good foundation of cybersecurity knowledge so that I was comfortable entering the industry after graduation.

Dominic Mott

2019-2020 NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE Program Participant, MPA Category

Over the past year and a half, I participated in and recently completed the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE Program. As a Queen’s Master of Public Administration student who was interested in cybersecurity but did not initially have a strong technical or cyber background, I found this certificate program to be an extremely rewarding opportunity that accentuated my master’s degree.

The program guided me to participate in a diverse number of areas, including ongoing meetings with the participants on the Computer Science side of the program, attend conferences, and develop my career skillset through the Queen’s Learning Hub courses. In partnership with IBM, the program also facilitated a Tabletop exercise, where we participated as cybersecurity officers during a critical infrastructure attack. Under the guidance of Professor Christian Leuprecht and as part of this program, I was able to write a research paper on cyberespionage, expanding my understanding of the current legislative regime in connection to the changing nature of espionage.

Two central elements that I found to be most interesting and useful in this program were enrolling in the two cyber courses at the Royal Military College, which broadened my understanding of cyber, especially in connection to Government functions, international relations and of the current global cyber environment.

The second part that I found beneficial was the internship with a Government of Canada department. I had a summer internship with the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit and had the opportunity to work on policy with very talented and experienced policy professionals.

Above all, I believe that the Cybersecurity CREATE Program will be beneficial to anyone who has a strong interest in a career in cyber policy development and analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed this certificate, and it provided me with the experience necessary for a career within the cyber ecosystem and encouraged me to continue research in this field.