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New USM Institute Dedicated to Tackling Security Issues

Fri, 10/02/2020 - 12:01pm | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Joshua HillWhat began as a research group dedicated to the application of quantitative methods regarding security issues has evolved into a burgeoning institute at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

The Institute for Advanced Analytics and Security (IAAS), housed within the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is geared toward applying advanced statistical, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to a variety of security problems. The Institute received IHL Board approval in March of this year.

Dr. Joshua Hill, the institute’s Founding Director and Associate Professor in the School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Science and Security, notes that collaborative projects like IAAS provide substantive research benefits to the University.

“There is no doubt that the techniques we’re focused on are being used more frequently across a huge number of areas, and that by using them we are discovering new things and making processes more efficient,” said Hill. “While we are mostly, though not completely, focused on security issues, we hope to increase our colleagues’ knowledge and use of machine learning and to help find ways to bring it into curricula across the University.”

Machine Learning is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms build a mathematical model based on sample data, known as "training data", in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. Machine learning algorithms are used in a wide variety of applications, such as email filtering and computer vision, where it is difficult or infeasible to develop conventional algorithms to perform the needed tasks.

USM Research Professor Dr. Justin Kurland, who helped formulate the IAAS blueprint, points out that an institute of this kind is important because it demonstrates the University’s commitment to security as a discipline.

“The University, and the nation to be more general, need an institute like this because it provides opportunities for students interested in security and data that will ultimately improve their prospect of landing the intelligence and security jobs of the future,” said Kurland. “We have a problem now in our criminal justice and intelligence communities in relation to the need for more well-trained, data conversant analysts. This requires the development of analytical skills that can be taught, but also learned by working closely with researchers who are working on projects like those that are being undertaken by researchers at the institute,” said Kurland, Director of Research, USM’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security.

Security threats remain an area of prime concern, both in the United States and abroad. Among the institute’s objectives is the creation of Internet Protocol for the University and the State of Mississippi based upon IAAS research.

“Security challenges are evolving all the time. In recent years, we have increasingly faced issues related to outside actors creating issues online that translate to real-world problems,” said Hill. “Perhaps, this is nowhere more evident than in elections. Understanding how these networks function; how they’re influenced online, and then how that influence translates into read-world events is one of the most pressing challenges we face.”

To learn more about the Institute for Advanced Analytics and Research, call 601.266.5530 or visit: