Members of UCI’s cybersecurity club: top row, left to right: Qi Alfred Chen (advisor), Jordan Whiting (captain), Reggie Dequit; middle row, left to right: Sam Hansen, Brandon Nguyen, Jacob Bokor; bottom row, left to right: Alan Nguyen, Ryan Blanchard.

UCI’s cybersecurity club makes history

In just its third year of competing, UCI’s cybersecurity club placed fifth in the nation at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition finals last month.

It was Irvine’s first trip to the finals after beating perennial favorite Stanford in the Western Regionals.

“It was amazing to reach the finals,” says team captain Jordan Whiting, a sophomore at UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. “It’s something we worked very hard for.”

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the U.S., estimated to grow 28% from 2016 to 2026.

“This is an historic moment,” team adviser Qi Alfred Chen, UCI assistant professor of computer science, says of the team’s finish. “I can see a clear trajectory of us getting better and more reputable.”

Competitions are typically based on a scenario in which teams assume administrative duties for a network of about 50 users and 10 servers to handle internet traffic, websites, email and e-commerce functions. Teams respond to outside threats while trying to maintain services, continually balancing security against business needs.

“These competitions present just the sort of pressure-cooker environment cybersecurity professionals will face,” says Bryan Cunningham, executive director of UCI’s Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute, which sponsors UCI’s team. “These battle-tested students will be highly employable.”