N.C. Electric Cooperatives gift funds UNC Pembroke Cybersecurity Research Assistantships

Ally Taylor

Three students at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke have been selected as the first recipients of research assistantships in cybersecurity, thanks to a generous gift from North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. 

Muhammed Adeniran, Harry Lamichhane and Ally Taylor will work with UNCP faculty to conduct research in the cybersecurity field, travel to professional conferences and develop their skills to prepare for roles in the evolving industry. The gift will provide a total of nine assistantships over the course of the program.

“These research assistantships funded by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives provide our students with hands-on experiences that set them apart in a competitive workplace,” said Dr. Richard Gay, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Community partnerships like this one are essential for meeting the needs of southeastern North Carolina. We are so pleased to continue our partnership with NCEC and see our students reach their goals.”

North Carolina’s 26 not-for-profit electric cooperatives serve 45% of the state’s land mass, powering a brighter future for 2.5 million North Carolinians and rural communities in 93 counties statewide. Beyond providing reliable, affordable electricity, the cooperatives are investing in education and workforce development initiatives in their local communities to help develop the next generation of industry leaders vital to North Carolina’s future.

“UNC Pembroke has made incredible advancements to their cybersecurity programs, an area that is increasingly critical to electric cooperatives across North Carolina,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president and chief operating officer for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “We are proud to partner on this impactful initiative and support the future leaders in this important, evolving field.”

Globally, the cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 145% to keep up with demand. In North Carolina, the demand for applicants in positions such as information security analysts outpaces the trained workforce by 32%. 

UNC Pembroke is taking a leading role in educating students to meet the need for skilled professionals. In fall 2022, UNCP launched a new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, and the university also offers a cybersecurity track in computer science and information technology. 

Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA)—the nation’s leading cybersecurity agency—designated UNC Pembroke as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). The CAE-CD designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity degrees or certificates at the associate, bachelor’s and graduate levels.

“We are very proud of the work our faculty and students are doing in computer science and cybersecurity,” Gay said. “Our graduates are finding well-paying jobs that contribute to the cyber defense of our community and beyond.”

The three students receiving research assistantships are:

  • Muhammed Adeniran, a sophomore majoring in cybersecurity. Adeniran moved to the United States from his native Nigeria in 2021, earning an associate degree in network management before enrolling at UNC Pembroke. He has designed a network topology for three data companies and worked with several cloud service applications.
  • Harry Lamichhane, a sophomore majoring in computer science, cybersecurity track. A native of Nepal, Lamicchane is president of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) club at UNC Pembroke. He is interested in app development, including a new project to design a ride-sharing app for UNCP students called BravesRide. His research interests include the ethics of artificial intelligence in tech security and privacy.
  • Ally Taylor, a senior majoring in cybersecurity and integrated studies in criminal justice and sociology. Taylor, from Greensboro, N.C., has worked as a cybersecurity researcher for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and as an information technology intern at Proficient Health, a health care IT company. In addition to her studies, Taylor works as a BraveTech employee for UNC Pembroke’s Department of Information Technology.