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Dr. Yi Hu Leads New Cybersecurity Online Master's Degree Program Into the Future

NKU M.S. Cybersecurity faculty Dr. Yi Hu

While growing up in Henan, China, Dr. Yi Hu saved the world every chance he got.

"At an early age, I was interested in computer games," he said. "That's how I got into the field. My favorite game was Space Invaders. I still remember playing it on my middle school computer."

Now, Dr. Hu is preparing students to save personal information from falling into the wrong hands as director of the online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). He is in his 15th year of teaching at the university.

"When I was working full time, there was an urge for me to go back and teach students at the college level," he said. "There were more and more students with an interest in computer science and cybersecurity. They can grow in this field and have a wonderful career by following this path."

The master's degree program is in its first year. Still, Dr. Hu has helped develop a significant cybersecurity presence on the NKU campus as faculty adviser for the Cyber Defense Team and the Cybersecurity Club since 2009.

After teaching Computer Forensics, Web Security and Ethical Hacking among other NKU courses, Dr. Hu is filling in as the master's degree program director for Dr. Wei Hao, who is on sabbatical after launching the program in Fall 2021.

"We have brought our students to the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and other offensive or defensive cybersecurity competitions annually," he said.

"They have won first place, along with several second- and third-place finishes in the regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Our students have also gone on to compete at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. They have done very well with their education from NKU."

Head in the Cloud

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in computer science from Southwest Jiaotong University in his homeland, Dr. Hu came to the United States in 2000 to enroll in a master's degree program.

He graduated with a master's degree (2002) and a Ph.D. (2006) in computer science from the University of Arkansas. He worked as a software engineer at Acxiom in Little Rock for three years.

"I felt a need to expand my horizons," he said. "That's when I became interested in cybersecurity. My master's degree and Ph.D. research were related to data security on the internet. That's how I started down this path."

After earning his doctorate, Dr. Hu joined NKU as an assistant professor. He became an associate professor in 2013, then a full professor five years later. He is happy to be on the ground floor of a burgeoning area of study, which also includes the recent addition of a bachelor's degree program in cybersecurity.

"The Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity program has been around for more than two years," he said. "We also have some other programs that have been around for a while, like computer science and computer information technology, data science, and applied software engineering. It's exciting."

Having a Blast

Although online education was in its infancy when Dr. Hu arrived at NKU, he has taken to teaching the format like a pro. In addition, its flexibility enables many more students to earn college degrees.

Dr. Hu enjoys teaching online and believes his efforts have led to mastery of the realm.

"The M.S. in Cybersecurity is the only online program in our department," he said. "We all think it's helpful to the students with other life commitments. They often prefer an online program. There are many students in that kind of situation. It's been great."

Watching his students progress gives Dr. Hu a thrill, even after his nearly 15 years as an educator.

"My favorite thing about teaching is seeing our graduates become successful in their career development," he said. "They got their cybersecurity knowledge from our program. That's the most rewarding part."

Dr. Hu, who enjoys traveling and photography in his spare time, plans to teach students to keep the internet space free of invaders for many years to come.

"Our department previously didn't have an online master's program, but we are continuing the tradition of excellence in cyber defense education by taking it to a new level," he said. "I'm sure graduates from this program will be more successful with the hot job market in cybersecurity."

Learn more about NKU's online M.S. in Cybersecurity program.

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