Student internships lead to full-time careers

December 5, 2013

Arizona State University alumnus Ed Vasko is truly putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to supporting his alma mater. Vasko’s Scottsdale-based cybersecurity firm, Terra Verde, brings several students from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on board each semester as interns. Four of those former interns, now New College alumni, have obtained full-time employment with the company.

“There is a worldwide shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals,” Vasko said. “Recent reports put cybersecurity job growth at 10 times that of other technical fields, and these internships provide a direct opportunity to enter this field. Terra Verde employees Download Full Image

“Another motivation we have for offering internships is that Terra Verde is committed to giving back to the local communities where we work and live,” he added. “And the ability to work with the next generation of professionals is beneficial for our employees just as much as the interns.”

Interns at Terra Verde research a specific security topic that is mutually chosen between the intern and one of the firm’s senior security professionals with whom the intern will be working. Topics have ranged from best methods to secure wireless networks to bringing about cultural change that helps improve cybersecurity adoption at large corporations. Interns also assist Terra Verde’s security teams with their day-to-day needs.

“My internship really got me a lot of hands-on experience working with managing a network, maintaining a network and troubleshooting with office staff when problems arose,” said Stephen Calvert, who now works full-time for Terra Verde after completing his New College bachelor’s degree in applied computing.

“On top of that, it let me use devices on which we only learned core concepts in class,” Calvert said. “I was able to interact with customers, which showed me what type of cybersecurity activity people in various industries see in real-world situations.”

Calvert and the other interns are treated as professionals during their internship experiences with Terra Verde. That starts with the hiring process. The potential intern interviews with people ranging from the company’s human resources manager to the director for whom he or she will be working.

“Through this process, we help expose interns to what interviews are like and also identify specific areas through which we can mentor our interns on improving their communication skills to be more effective once they enter the job market,” Vasko said.

Ultimately, what you get out of an internship is affected by what you put into it, said New College alumnus Brian Saenz, who also landed a full-time job with Terra Verde after an internship.

“If you treat the internship as you would a real job, your outlook will be a lot better and you’ll come out with a better understanding of your field and the direction you might want to take when you complete your degree,” said Saenz, who conducted back-to-back internships in the summer and fall of 2012, and was hired when he graduated with an applied computing degree in December.

But it’s not just applied computing majors who can land internships with Terra Verde.

“We want anyone with a passion to learn new things and grow with that new knowledge by applying it in innovative ways to feel welcome at Terra Verde,” said Vasko, who earned his New College degree in 1995 as a history major. “We are not looking for specific majors so much as the ability to absorb, synthesize and produce quality work. Students in all majors can – and should – apply.”

Founded in 2008, Terra Verde provides cybersecurity services and solutions to clients around the world. The company’s clients include large government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, as well as small businesses. “Our services include assessing, designing and implementing cybersecurity solutions that are pragmatic and value-driven to help our customers protect their critical information,” Vasko said.

And the company is strongly committed to providing an environment in which both interns and full-time employees continue to expand their talents.

“During my internship I was given responsibilities that led me to develop my skills in many areas relating, but not limited, to computer security,” Saenz said. “I’m still growing and developing, and Terra Verde is doing a big part to push me towards new skills, abilities and certifications. I have traveled out of state to work with clients and experienced a lot more than I could have expected to be doing within a year of graduating. This will not only help me now and make me more valuable to the company, but will also set me up for a prosperous career.”

Engineering project aims at improving disaster response networks

December 5, 2013

An advanced smart-grid disaster-response network will be developed by engineers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Their goal is to design and test new utility-grid architecture that will enable telecommunications technology to be integrated into such systems to make them more reliable. Sayfe Connection One Download Full Image

The project, funded by a recently awarded two-year $400,000 NSF grant, will bring together researchers the ASU-based Connection One center, the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Engineering Research Center based at ASU and the Center for Integrated Access Networks at UA.

Connection One, an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, is at the forefront in development of the next generations of antennas, low-power computer chips, advanced transistor models and multiple-function circuitry. The center is directed by Sayfe Kiaei, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Kiaei will oversee the project along with Jennifer Kitchen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at ASU, and Nasser Peygambarian, director of the Center for Integrated Access Networks.

The UA center develops optoelectronic technologies that can be cost-effectively integrated with existing and future telecommunications and data-communication networks.

The Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Engineering Research Center, established by the NSF and the U.S. Department of Energy, focuses on solving challenges to producing electricity from solar power in more technologically efficient and economically viable ways.

A smart grid is a technologically advanced electrical grid integrated with communications technologies. The integration enables the system to quickly gather information to guide its operations and improve the efficiency and reliability of electricity production and distribution.

During disaster situations, high demand on energy grids combined with infrastructure damage often results in power outages over large areas that can threaten public safety.

ASU and UA engineers will explore ways to integrate alternative energy sources, such as solar, into power utility grids to serve as a backup for conventional energy sources during widespread emergencies.

They’ll seek to achieve this by creating an underlying reconfigurable optical network, using “smart” wireless sensors on solar-energy panels to form the backbone of the disaster response network, Kiaei explains.

Researchers will develop a smart-grid prototype equipped with multiple solar-energy panels, which can be used to gather data, as well as provide backup power.

The project will also focus on employing new technologies to improve emergency preparedness, using alternative energy sources to provide more reliable backup power for hospitals and the data services that are critical during public disasters.

Written by Mayank Prasad and Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering