Cyberattack prevention earns $1.5M research grant, faculty co-leader wins Purdue award

As reported in brief last month, Jin Wei-Kocsis, associate professor in computer and information technology—specializing in artificial intelligence (AI)—was among more than 100 researchers from Purdue University to be presented the Purdue Seed for Success Acorn Award. This particular award, given by the Purdue University Office of Research, recognizes researchers for obtaining a sponsored award or grant of $1M or more for a single proposal. Individuals can only receive this award once.

Wei-Kocsis is a co-principal investigator on the project entitled “Cyber Resilience Adaptive Virtual Reality Experiences (CRAVRE),” which received a grant for $1.5M in 2020 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The project team also includes faculty and other collaborators from Purdue Polytechnic’s departments of Technology Leadership and Innovation (TLI), Computer and Information Technology (CIT), and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

From Purdue, these collaborators are primarily Mesut Akdere, a TLI professor and CRAVRE’s director, and Umit Karabiyik, a CIT professor with expertise in cybersecurity. Last semester, Akdere stated that CRAVRE is “the first FEMA-approved program to have full VR integration.” At this time, Akdere also stated that Wei-Kocsis’ contribution, the AI component, would be a “robust decision-making mechanism that adapts to decisions made by users in the simulation.”

The project’s AI-powered program uses virtual reality (VR) to train public safety officials to respond to and recover from cyberattacks. During the design stage with FEMA, the team decided to use virtual reality to help people stay engaged through interactive and immersive scenarios, including disasters, and improves learning and memory.

"I am honored to work together with the great research team to carry out an innovative artificial intelligence-powered and virtual reality-based training program to help public safety officials understand cybersecurity resilience for non-cyber incident response and recovery operation,” said Wei-Kocsis. “And, Purdue recognizes the vital importance of this work."

The CRAVRE team also won a People’s Choice Award in 2021 for the project during the 23rd Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Virtual Symposium held by FEMA.

Dr. Wei-Kocsis’s technically received the award for her contributions to CRAVRE in 2021 but was not recognized in a ceremony until November 2023 due to cancellations related to COVID-19 restrictions. A full list of 2023 award recipients is available on the Seed for Success Acorn Award web page.


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