maroon wave
REU students on a trip to NASA Wallops Flight Facility

National REU Program Prepares Stephora Alberi for a Future in Cyber Security

SALISBURY, MD---For many students, college is a journey of self-discovery.

Stephora Alberi wasn’t sure what path she wanted to take when she entered Salisbury University’s Computer Science Program – but after taking the leap and reaching out for the opportunities in front of her, she is gaining experiences that will propel her into her future.

Alberi was selected for this year’s cohort of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at SU, a national program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through the 10-week summer program, students delve into projects such as analyzing patterns across social networks, reconstructing medical images, increasing function speeds for geographic information systems, and strengthening computer and network security.

“It’s a great experience because it’s not only hands-on, but we’re applying our skills to real-world problems,” Alberi said.

For her topic, Alberi chose to work on a long-standing computer science question: the stable marriage problem. She is working in a high-performance computing lab to develop an algorithm to improve upon the efficiency of the Gale and Shapley algorithms of graphing.

In addition to the hands-on experience, she enjoys the connections she is making through the REU. Students come to the program from across the U.S., so she has the opportunity to network with people from the University of Southern California to Princeton University. Together, they have taken trips hosted by the REU to job sites such as the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

“I love working with a group because we’re always helping each other,” Alberi said. “Because we’re working on real-world projects, I’ve learned you’re going to fail sometimes – but it’s okay, because you can get back up. Failure doesn’t feel like a punishment. It feels like I’m getting closer to where I want to be.”

SU has been an official REU site in the fields of Computer and Information Science and Engineering since 2012. Dr. Enyue Lu, professor of computer science at SU, proposed the project named “EXERCISE: Explore Emerging Computing in Science and Engineering.” Since then, SU has received funding for four REU sites, each running for three years.

“Becoming an REU site is highly competitive, and most are found at large research institutions,” Lu said. “This designation is a testimony of the superior research opportunities undergraduates receive at SU.”

After completing the REU program, many students submit their projects to professional conferences such as the ACM/IEEE Supercomputing Conference and National Conference on Undergraduate Research. These opportunities are extremely competitive, but REU students in the past have had great success in taking their projects forward to present at conferences, publish their work and enter graduate programs.

Alberi hopes to someday work in cyber security and is looking at jobs with government agencies such as the FBI. After participating in the REU, she feels more confident in her goals and knows she is capable of what she wants to accomplish.

“The REU has really prepared me for opportunities like research and grad school,” Alberi said. “I would highly recommend that other SU students apply for opportunities like the REU. It will prepare you for a lot in life, and you’ll put your hands on something you never thought of doing before.”

Learn more about the REU program.

Learn more about opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at SU.