By NASH NUNNERY
John Grogan’s age belies his enjoyment of classic literature.
The Mississippi State University senior, who just turned 21, discovered dystopian novels such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 as a middle schooler in Clinton.
For the uninitiated, dystopian fiction centers on the portrayal of a setting that completely disagrees with the author’s ethos.
“I can’t really relate to 1984 but I did enjoy reading about a different form of government and way of life. The authoritarian/totalitarian form of government is not something I want to be a part of,” he said. “As for Fahrenheit 451, I read it my freshman and senior years of high school. It shows that knowledge and power won’t be easily toppled or forgotten.
“The symbolism in the book, though somewhat bleak, does give hope.”
However, Grogan’s career focus lies not in classic literature but in the computer world – cybersecurity, specifically.
Last month, he and two other college students were chosen to participate in a joint fellowship program between C Spire and Nokia Bell Labs. The program offers college juniors and seniors majoring in computer science and electrical or computer engineering at the University of Mississippi and MSU an opportunity to conduct relevant industry research alongside world-class scientists, engineers and technologists.
“I feel very proud and honored to have been selected,” he said. “Not only will working outside Mississippi be its own experience, doing research at (Nokia) Bell Labs is an opportunity most people don’t have.”
C Spire President Stephen Bye says the company has long supported academic excellence but has focused more recently on community-based training efforts to help students turn their education and training into a professional career.
“These students are some of the best and brightest, and represent future leaders in our industry,” Bye said. “This fellowship program allows them to hone their academic and research skills by working on projects that will make a difference.”
Bye and Nokia Bell Labs President Marcus Weldon agreed to develop a joint fellowship program in 2016 tailored to the needs of the work force in the South.
Grogan applied for both an internship and the fellowship program last fall, encouraged by his data communication professor, Maxwell Young.
“During my first semester (at MSU), I was an undeclared engineering major and took a programming class,” he said. “I really enjoyed it to the point of changing my major to computer science.”
Soon after, Grogan’s burgeoning interest grew to cyber security after talking with friends in the field. He admits that he enjoys the defensive side of cybersecurity, but not so much offensive tactics such as penetration testing and ethical hacking.
“The offensive side consists of malware analysis, computer forensics and network security,” he said. “(Defensive security) involves thinking in ways people don’t normally think. Not only that but defending the cyberspace is what needs to be done, and it’s where the future of computer security lies.”
Grogan, who is on track to graduate in May, said he sees two big challenges in the computing world – cost and legislation.
“The cost of cybersecurity has always been there. Companies have to ask, ’is it worth implementing security protocols, and, if so, how much do we spend on implementing it?’”, he said. “As far as legislation, there isn’t much regarding data privacy and cybersecurity. There is sort of a patchwork of laws trying to accomplish the same goal in the US, but those laws only target specific industries.”
The son of two research civil engineers, Grogan said he’d like to stay with C Spire after graduation and isn’t opposed to working his way into management roles – with one caveat.
“I would like to stay in computers, and would certainly feel more comfortable managing the people who have the same background (in computers) that I do,” he said.
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