The St. Mary’s University Department of Engineering has been awarded an almost $221,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to enhance teaching and research in wireless communications and computer security.

The grant will fund a computer lab that will support classes with up to 40 students. Students and faculty members will be able to do research projects on a variety of topics, such as securing electronic cash over the Internet, cooperation among mobile devices and security and encryption for mobile devices. Many courses will benefit, including those dealing with wireless communications and computer security.

The grant is funded by the Department of Defense’s Infrastructure Support Program for Minority Institutions. Wenbin Lou, Ph.D., and Vahid Emamian, Ph.D., both professors in the department of engineering, will direct the lab’s development.

“In preparing students for careers in science and engineering, students benefit greatly from learning experiences that engage them in directly manipulating ideas and applying concepts to problems they will encounter in the work place,” said Luo, who is an assistant professor of computer engineering. “This lab will enable students to conduct experiments that apply concepts to real world situations. These hands-on learning experiences contribute to a deeper learning and increased retention.”

This is the second grant for a computer lab that has been awarded to the St. Mary’s Department of Engineering in recent months. Earlier this summer, Luo was awarded an $87,000 federal grant that will be used to develop a computer security laboratory to enhance teaching and research capabilities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The lab will enable entire classes to work together on lab experiments as part of classroom instruction. The grant is through the U.S. Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which works to strengthen science and engineering programs at predominately minority institutions nationwide.

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