Capitol Technology University is proud to announce that one of our current Cyberpsychology doctoral students, Erick Miyares, has been awarded the 2023 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship.
This highly competitive fellowship is offered by the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Office of the Under Secretary for Research and Engineering and the military services, and aims to promote education in science and engineering disciplines relevant to the Defense mission. By awarding fellowships to promising U.S. scientists, the NDSEG hopes to encourage their pursuit of doctoral degrees in designated research disciplines. The NDSEG Fellowship typically receives over 60,000 applications each year with only a 7% acceptance rate, making this a very selective award. Recipients of this award include the country’s top rising leaders and innovators in the STEM fields.
Miyares said he was honored when he received notice of the award. “I applied to the research requirements supporting the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and Army Research Laboratory Broad Agency Announcements (BAA) under Operational Cyberpsychology: Improving Cognition in Cyberspace Operations. Receiving the prestigious NDSEG Fellowship will be instrumental in achieving my career goals. It is a great honor to represent Capitol Technology University and the Cyberpsychology program.”
The Capitol Tech Cyberpsychology program was developed to address the growing need for professionals in this expanding field. Courses are taught by industry-expert faculty, including Dr. Mary Aiken, world-leading expert in Cyberpsychology and Chair and Professor of the Cyberpsychology Department at Capitol Tech. Scholars in this field of study combine expertise from areas such as computer science, criminology, industry, policymaking, the law, and the behavioral sciences to create a new frontier of knowledge that deals with pertinent questions in our tech-driven world. Students can explore a broad range of research questions, such as: What are the motivations behind, and drivers of, cybercrime? What are the challenges and opportunities presented by cyber behavioral profiling? And how could cyberpsychology be used to thwart cyber-attacks?
Miyares’ impressive research while pursuing his Ph.D. made him an ideal choice for this fellowship award. He explains that “one key aspect of my research involves studying ‘Cyberspace Operator Syndrome,’ a concept I have developed to describe the unique demands and challenges cyberspace operators face.” Forward-thinking ideas such as this are what define innovation and advancement in the field.
Miyares adds that his time with Capitol Tech has been impactful to his research and career. “Through my studies, I have been able to delve into the unique challenges cyberspace operators face, the human factors that contribute to their performance, and the potential interventions and programs that can be developed to address these issues. The Cyberpsychology program has given me the confidence and ability to explore emerging technologies and contribute to advancing the cyberspace operations community within national security. I am grateful for my time at Capitol Technology University, and I cannot recommend their Ph.D. program highly enough.”
Capitol Tech is very proud of our students and the great accomplishments they achieve in becoming leaders of change and innovation in their field! Congratulations to Erick on receiving this award!
Please read below for Capitol Tech’s featured interview with Cyberpsychology Ph.D. student Erick Miyares as he describes his journey with our university and in receiving this prestigious award.
Can you give us some background on how you applied for, and received, this fellowship?
I first became aware of the NDSEG fellowship through a friend who recommended it as a prestigious and competitive fellowship closely aligned with my research interests. I researched the fellowship online and was impressed by its mission to support outstanding graduate students pursuing research relevant to national security and defense.
To apply for the fellowship, I actively submitted an online application, including information about my academic and research background and a research proposal outlining my proposed project. I also provided letters of recommendation from former military leaders and others who could attest to my academic and research potential.
Upon submitting my application, I learned I had advanced to the Subject Matter Expert (SME) phase, and a few months later to the Department of Defense (DoD) phase. In April 2023, I was thrilled to learn I had been selected as an NDSEG fellow.
I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my research interests and represent Capitol Technology University as an NDSEG fellow.
Can you tell us about your current work and your Ph.D. thesis?
My current work, as well as my Ph.D. thesis, is focused on exploring Operational Cyberpsychology and its role in improving cognition within cyberspace operations, including computer network operations and offensive cyberspace operations, and Cyber Threat Intelligence. The goal of this research is to gain a better understanding of the cognitive and psychological challenges faced by cyberspace operators and examine the factors that contribute to their performance and well-being.
One key aspect of my research involves studying "Cyberspace Operator Syndrome," a concept I have developed to describe the unique demands and challenges cyberspace operators face. These demands include rapid information processing, critical decision-making under pressure, and employment of sophisticated and sensitive cyberspace tools.
In addition, my research investigates the role of human factors, such as individual differences in cognitive ability, personality traits, resilience, and organizational culture, in shaping the performance of operators. This approach helps to identify the specific psychological and cognitive factors that play a crucial role in the success of cyberspace operations.
To address these challenges and improve the overall effectiveness of cyberspace operators, my work emphasizes the importance of developing targeted selection processes and training programs, considering the unique aspects of cyberpsychology in both cyberspace and the physical world. A vital aspect of this research is the exploration of human-machine teaming and evidence-based approaches to enhance cognitive performance, decision-making skills, and resilience in complex environments, while considering the psychological impacts of offensive cyberspace operators in cyberspace compared to the physical world.
By studying Operational Cyberpsychology and its implications, my research aims to contribute to the field and provide valuable insights for practitioners in the military and civilian sectors. This work can inform the development of interventions and training programs that enhance the performance and well-being of cyberspace operators, ultimately contributing to a more secure and resilient cyberspace.
What made you interested in this field and how did you get into this area of study?
My interest in this field was sparked by the growing importance of cyberspace and its critical role in national security and our modern world. The increasing reliance on digital technology and the internet has dramatically shifted how we communicate, conduct business, and manage critical infrastructure. As a result, the security and resilience of cyberspace have become significant concerns for both military and civilian sectors. Additionally, recognizing the crucial role of the human element behind cyberspace operations has driven my desire to understand better and enhance the cognitive abilities of those responsible for protecting and securing our digital landscape.
I was drawn to this study area due to my background in cyberspace operations, intelligence, and special operations, and desire to understand the human element in cyber operations better. I recognized that the cognitive and psychological aspects of cyber operations were often overlooked, yet they play a vital role in determining the success or failure of these missions. Finally, I wanted to explore the intersection of psychology and technology to gain insights into the factors influencing cognitive performance in cyberspace operations and help enhance overall operational effectiveness.
To pursue this line of inquiry, I enrolled in a doctoral program focusing on cyberpsychology, where I had the opportunity to engage with experts from around the world and conduct research on this topic. Through my studies, I have been able to delve into the unique challenges cyberspace operators face, the human factors that contribute to their performance, and the potential interventions and programs that can be developed to address these issues. My passion for this field continues to grow as I work to contribute to our understanding of the cognitive and psychological aspects of cyberspace operations and help improve the resilience and security of our digital world.
As I continued exploring the cyberpsychology field and its applications to cyberspace operations, I became increasingly fascinated by the complexity of the cognitive demands placed on cyberspace operators. These professionals must navigate a rapidly changing environment, make critical decisions under pressure, and stay ahead of evolving threats. This led me to investigate the concept of cognitive agility and its role in enhancing the performance of cyber operators.
In my research, I have examined various factors that contribute to cognitive performance in cyberspace operations, such as situational awareness, decision-making, multitasking, and stress management. I have also evaluated the effectiveness of different training methods, including simulation-based training and evidence-based approaches, which can help improve cognitive resilience and adaptability in cyber operators.
One of the key findings of my research has been the importance of understanding and addressing cyberspace operators' mental health and well-being. This has led me to develop the "Cyberspace Operator Syndrome" concept. Operational Cyberpsychology: Improving Cognition in Cyberspace Operations (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Capitol Technology University), which encompasses the unique set of cognitive and psychological challenges cyberspace operators face in their work.
As I progress in my research, I aim to continue refining my understanding of the cognitive and psychological aspects of cyberspace operations and work towards developing effective interventions and strategies to enhance the performance and well-being of cyberspace operators. By focusing on the human element in cyberspace operations, we can improve the security and resilience of our digital infrastructure and support the professionals on the frontlines of this critical domain.
Can you tell us more about the NDSEG award and what kind of work you will be doing within this fellowship?
The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship is a highly prestigious and competitive award granted to outstanding students pursuing advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, focusing on research areas relevant to national security. In addition, I am honored to have been selected for this fellowship, which will provide me with three years of financial support for my Ph.D. studies and facilitate access to cutting-edge resources, facilities, and networking opportunities.
Within the NDSEG fellowship, I will expand my research in Operational Cyberpsychology, specifically focusing on improving cognition in cyberspace operations. My work will explore the intricacies of the intersection of human behavior and technology in cyberspace operations, investigate the challenges and demands cyberspace operators face, and examine how the selection, training, and retraining processes can be optimized to enhance their cognitive performance and resilience. I will also delve into applying emerging technologies and evidence-based approaches in simulation-based training, aiming to contribute significantly to the cybersecurity and cyber threat intelligence fields.
The NDSEG fellowship will undoubtedly play a vital role in advancing my career, enabling me to conduct cutting-edge research with the potential to impact national security and the cyberspace operation community.
How has our Ph.D. program prepared you for your career?
My experience at Capitol Technology University has been truly transformative. The Ph.D. program in Cyberpsychology has provided me with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary education that has equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in my career. The exceptional faculty, supportive environment, and innovative research approach have enhanced my understanding of the complex relationship between cyberspace operations and human cognition and prepared me to make a significant impact in the cybersecurity and cyber threat intelligence fields. The program has given me the confidence and ability to explore emerging technologies and contribute to advancing the cyberspace operations community within national security. I am grateful for my time at Capitol Technology University, and I cannot recommend their Ph.D. program highly enough.
Can you describe your future career plans and what opportunities this fellowship offers?
My future career plans involve continuing to work in the field of operational cyberpsychology, focusing on enhancing the cognitive performance and well-being of cyberspace operators. I am particularly interested in developing and implementing evidence-based interventions and training programs that can improve the resilience and adaptability of these professionals in the face of increasingly complex and demanding cyberspace operations.
Incorporating knowledge and research in cyberpsychology, I plan to expand my focus into the broader cybersecurity field, particularly on cyber threat intelligence. This will enable me to contribute to developing more effective and proactive strategies for identifying, analyzing, and mitigating cyber threats while considering the human factors that influence decision-making and overall cyber defense capabilities.
Upon completion of my Ph.D., I plan to pursue a career in academia, research-focused organizations, or within the national security community, where I can further advance the field of operational cyberpsychology and cybersecurity through cutting-edge research and collaboration with interdisciplinary teams. I am also eager to work closely with the cyberspace operations community and explore emerging technologies to help tailor and implement effective strategies that address their cyber workforce's unique cognitive and psychological needs.
Receiving the prestigious NDSEG fellowship will be instrumental in achieving these career goals. The fellowship will provide me with the necessary financial support to fully dedicate myself to my research and offer valuable networking opportunities and exposure to innovative ideas and projects within the Department of Defense and other research communities. In addition, the NDSEG fellowship will enable me to focus on my research without the burden of financial concerns, allowing me to produce high-quality, impactful work that can contribute to advancing the field and improving our nation's cyber defense and national security capabilities.