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Midstream oil and gas operations are increasingly faced with costly, highly scrutinized events that stem from aging (leaks and explosions), natural occurrences (floods, seismic activity and extreme weather), and cyber intrusion and attack. One approach to address these issues involves the use of integrated, intelligent monitoring and control systems -- or secure embedded intelligence (SEI).
Four University of Wyoming students will work with and research this embedded intelligence during this summer’s “Research Frontiers” internship program at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The program is part of a cross-disciplinary program between UW and INL, which is broadly titled “Secure Embedded Intelligence in Energy Production Systems.” SEI encompasses the secure use of advanced sensing and actuation technologies, as well as their secure integration with emergent computational intelligence.
Maxon Lube, a Big Horn senior majoring in chemical engineering; Joseph Klebba, a Sheridan senior majoring in mechanical engineering; Shaya Wolf, a Buffalo Ph.D. candidate in computer science; and Rafer Cooley, a Cheyenne Ph.D. candidate in computer science, will intern at INL from June 3-Aug. 9. Students will be mentored by INL staff in conjunction with UW faculty in areas related to the topic and including cybersecurity-related aspects. The internships include a competitive stipend, a housing allowance and travel expenses.
“The experience of working for INL will be of great importance to me and my career path,” Lube says. “It will give me hands-on experience and allow me to use my school knowledge in a real-world setting.”
“Receiving the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some of the nation's finest minds at INL is a great privilege and an invaluable experience,” Klebba adds.
For Wolf and Cooley, INL is a somewhat familiar location. Interest in this internship experience was planted during the Department of Energy CyberForce Defenders Competition, which took place at INL last summer. During the competition, hundreds of students, including Wolf and Cooley, were given a vulnerable system to defend against expert attackers from national labs across the country. In the scenario, students had to defend a simulated oil transportation network, power delivery system and high-performance computing system.
“These interactive, scenario-based competitions are critical in the development of future cybersecurity professionals,” Wolf says. “Rafer and I can’t wait to compete again, and this internship allows us to further this hands-on experience.”
Wolf and Cooley are graduate Ph.D. researchers in UW’s Cybersecurity Education and Research Center (CEDAR) lab, which is housed within the Department of Computer Science.
UW, INL Have Collaborative History
INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development.
“We have collaborated in several of the INL-UW Research Frontiers meetings and sessions, discussing capabilities, current trends and potential research collaborations,” says Mike Borowczak, a UW assistant professor of computer science. “Additionally, CEDAR has been involved in developing a joint nuclear security certificate with INL and several Idaho universities.”
“There’s a significant historical relationship between the institutions,” says Steven Aumeier, senior adviser of INL’s nuclear energy programs and strategy. “We have staff who are UW graduates. We’ve had several UW students, just in my experience. We typically have had research professor relationships with UW.”
The INL project is at the frontier of innovation in the energy sector and is of tremendous importance to the private sector, says Don Roth, a UW professor emeritus who has been working with INL to facilitate collaborations with UW. For the last couple of years, he served as the associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a collaboration among INL, UW, Idaho State University, the University of Idaho and Boise State University. Roth stepped down from that post in January.
The emerging collaboration has implications for bolstering student achievement and career programs; expanding research and development prospects of UW faculty; positioning UW for large-scale federal grant awards; and expanding Wyoming’s long-term, sustainable economic development, Roth says.
“As INL has a tremendous expertise and foundation for nuclear systems, especially small modular and microreactors, and UW is most interested in oil/gas applications, these are the two focus areas at this stage,” Roth says.
“I want to emphasize that industry is jumping on this area in order to optimize production, safety, risk management and economic considerations,” Roth continues. “The Department of Energy, as a result, is focusing strongly on this area and should be a great source of funding going forward. It is our goal to position the INL/UW collaboration for national dominance in this area. The impact for Wyoming is clear, not only in production phases but especially in an immediate time frame, for midstream pipeline applications.”
Internship Experience Will be Multidisciplinary
Aumeier stresses INL wants to take a multidisciplinary approach, much like that which is used in industry today, with the Research Frontiers internship program looking strategically at cyberattack problems.
“We want to help students gain experience from each other so they learn from each other. They will participate in a way you do in industry now,” he says. “These four students will have five or six mentors who have very different backgrounds. The students will gain perspectives on cybersecurity, nuclear engineering, control systems, systems engineering and artificial intelligence.”
Students will work with INL staff and UW faculty to design, model/simulate and test secure embedded intelligence systems for target energy production systems, Roth adds.
“This research opportunity will help us transfer theory to practice and shift from classrooms to workplaces,” Wolf says. “This type of research proves invaluable, especially in cybersecurity where new threats develop frequently.”
Aumeier says opportunities exist for the four UW students to finish their internship work while they are back in classes this fall. He wants to see the group provide him with a report at the end of the year.
“Hopefully, there will be good enough nuggets in there that they can write a paper and present it at a conference,” he says. “We’d like to see them get published.”
The four UW students, while focused on their Research Frontiers project, also will have the opportunity to participate in INL’s broader summer internship program, which boasts more than 400 students this year. The broader program includes opportunities to tour facilities, attend seminars and look at other projects across the lab, Aumeier says.
“These students will be doing some strategic analysis in an area that is really hot,” he says.