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Enthusiastic Students and a Quality Program Produce First Digital Forensics Graduates

Sanjay Goel, with graduating digital forensics major students and IFM faculty. Clockwise from upper left, Nicholas Manzella, Peter McCarran, Tonja Alvis, Yuan Hong (faculty), Edwin Morales-Roca, Victoria Kisekka (faculty), Rosa Bautista, Damira Pon (faculty) and Christina Seahorn. In the middle is Justin Giboney (faculty). (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 9, 2016) — On May 15, for the first time ever, an undergraduate commencement at UAlbany will include diplomas bestowed upon digital forensics majors — seven students, to be exact. Three more will graduate this summer.

And there is no doubt that in coming years many others will follow in their virtual footprints.

One reason, says Sanjay Goel, associate professor of Information Technology Management and digital forensics program director, is the direction of the world. “There is so much pent-up demand now for digital forensic experts to handle the huge cybersecurity challenges that exist,” said Goel. “More and more entities are falling under the IT umbrella.”

As examples, he cited the smart grid, the growth of connected vehicles, and the increased use of implanted medical devices.

The other reason that the two-year-old UAlbany program is now “maxed out,” with 30-35 students on pace to graduate next year, is its sheer excellence. “The quality of the students that graduate with our B.S. in Digital Forensics is better than that of master’s degree programs elsewhere,” he said. “The breadth of the content in our courses, the depth we cover, is unmatched anywhere else.”

The seven students who will graduate in May could attest to this quality, both in terms of finding the curriculum stimulating and finding careers at their doorsteps. All were originally pointing at a spring 2017 graduation, but they accelerated that timetable by taking extra classes, including ones added by the department over winter break.

“I never would have expected to gain all of the knowledge and skills I did in just two years,” said Christina Seahorn, who was a forensic science transfer from Hudson Valley Community College, and has a job waiting for her at Gray Castle Security. “The program and all involved helped to jump start my career in this field and helped me secure a job a year before I was scheduled to graduate!”

“All our students came from different backgrounds,” said Goel. “But all wanted to do this kind of study. They just never had the chance. Our program gives that to them.”

Christina was not alone in finding solid job prospects well before graduation. Of the other six May graduates, one has secured a position at Albany Medical Center and two at EY (the former Ernst & Young), with two others now in the interview process at PwC Security. One student is relocating to San Diego and will explore digital forensic opportunities there.

The digital forensics major, and the favorable reception it has received, is supplemented by strong internships. This year, these included ones at the local branch of the multinational technology company Cisco Systems, the security division of the state’s Office of Information Technology Services, and big-four accounting firms.

This year, UAlbany’s digital forensic students formed their own Digital Forensics Association. Its 14 members (sure to grow) organized several well-attended events. Student enthusiasm also translated into the establishment this fall of a World of Digital Forensics Living-Learning Community, to be located on Indian Quad.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.