FIU awarded $2.25 million U.S. Army grant to create digital forensics Center of Excellence with HBCUs

Grants & Scholarships

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MIAMI (Dec. 14, 2021) – Florida International University’s Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences has been awarded a $2.25 million grant by the U.S. Army Research Office to establish a Center of Excellence in digital forensics at FIU in collaboration with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs).

The Forensic Investigations Network in Digital Sciences (FINDS) Center of Excellence (COE) will provide a vital research hub and workforce pathway for digital forensics professionals entering the Department of Defense and other governmental departments and agencies. It is expected to train more than 100 students over five years.

FIU Distinguished University Professor S. S. “Ram” Iyengar, the principal investigator and director of the FINDS COE, designed the program and developed the partner university collaborations to leverage networks, gain access to needed resources and promote already successful programs and practices.   

“This partnership is not only rounding out FIU’s academic and research offerings in the space of digital forensics, but also helping universities, particularly HBCU’s, secure funding, gain additional resources and improve the quality of instruction, as well as facilitate summer internships for graduate students,” Iyengar said.

The FINDS COE will be housed within the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences at FIU, while complementing FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center Preeminent Program which brings together four programs that establish FIU’s deep expertise in forensic science, forensic services, and justice administration. José Almirall, director of the FIU Center for Advanced Research and Forensic Science, and Kevin Lothridge, executive director of the National Forensic Science Technology Center at FIU, are co-principal investigators on the new grant.

“Digital forensics is a critical area of expertise for our nation’s security,” said Kevin Lothridge, executive director of the National Forensic Science and Technology Center at FIU. “As part of FIU, one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the country, we’re excited to partner with leading HBCUs to deliver high-quality training and inspire a more diverse student population to enter this field.”

The FINDS COE, funded by the five-year digital forensics research grant, is also designed to develop advanced digital forensic systems for use by the Department of Defense and Department of Justice by connecting HBCU/MI research across the country. The FINDS COE represents a collaboration with HBCUs Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Grambling State University, and Jackson State University (JSU), with FIU as the center’s lead institution.

“The FINDS COE will create a novel analytical cyber forensics framework and develop leading edge technologies to address several hard research problems such as video authenticity and network forensics with comprehensive approaches,” said Cliff Wang, chief of Network Sciences and program manager for Information Assurance at the U.S. Army Research Office. “The proposed research will definitely advance the state of art in digital forensics fields and bring out new capabilities of which the U.S. Army can take advantage.”

The FINDS COE will focus on research in five digital forensic areas – Analytical Methods and Evidence Processing Techniques; Forensic Fusion Models for Extracting Event Signatures; Big Data Digital Forensics; Drone Forensics and Ubiquitous Forensic Signatures. Each area will be led by an investigator from one of the participating universities who will collaborate with researchers from business, industry, and government laboratories, as well as members of other collaborating universities.

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Florida International University is a Top 50 public university that drives real talent and innovation in Miami and globally. Very high research (R1) activity and high social mobility come together at FIU to uplift and accelerate learner success in a global city by focusing in the areas of environment, health, innovation, and justice. Today, FIU has two campuses and multiple centers. FIU serves a diverse student body of more than 58,000 and 270,000 Panther alumni. U.S. News and World Report places dozens of FIU programs among the best in the nation, including international business at No. 2. Washington Monthly Magazine ranks FIU among the top 20 public universities contributing to the public good.