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West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

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Shepherd undergrad chosen for robotic cybersecurity fellowship at National Institute of Standards and Technology

Christian Burns will work in cybersecurity with industrial robots this summer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

A Shepherd University computer engineering and computer science major will spend his summer working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Christian Burns, of Hagerstown, Maryland, was chosen for an 11-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) during which he will work in cybersecurity with industrial robots.

“It is a great opportunity and it’s pretty much exactly what I want to do in my career,” Burns said. “I’ve always wanted to do research and development on industrial robots. I just think they’re interesting.”

Burns came to Shepherd in the fall of 2016 from Hagerstown Community College as a transfer student with associates degrees in engineering and computer science. In October, Burns and five other students participated with three faculty members in the 2016 Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges annual Eastern Region conference in Frostburg, Maryland. Burns also competed in this year’s ShepRobo Fest. His team won first place in the firefighting division.

Besides his upcoming fellowship at NIST, Burns has completed three internships, including two at Volvo in Hagerstown.

“That was the first time I’ve seen an assembly line in person that worked on engines. Just watching the robots work together was really interesting to me,” Burns said. “This fellowship is the first experience that gets me into the technical aspect of computer engineering, so I think it’s a really great step forward to what I want to do with my career.”

Burns is assigned a mentor at NIST who will help guide him through the fellowship, which he hopes will help him develop many more skills.

“Doing research and development for robotics systems has become a major career aspiration for me,” he said. “I am excited to learn skills and use software that scientists and engineers use every day in the field I hope to join.”

The NIST SURF program is open to undergraduate students enrolled at U.S. 2- and 4-year institutions majoring in chemistry, computer science, engineering, materials science, fire research, nanotechnology, information technology, mathematics, biology, manufacturing, statistics, or other STEM disciplines. Applicants must be nominated by their college or university. The fellowship offers a stipend and reimbursement for housing and transportation costs.

“Christian has been recognized with several awards and scholarships throughout his academic career,” said Jessica Kump, director of sponsored programs and co-director of the Shepherd Entrepreneurship and Research Corporation. “Shepherd University was proud to nominate Christian for this prestigious fellowship opportunity and we are thrilled to have him representing Shepherd in the NIST SURF program this summer.”