Securing the nation's energy: Professor awarded federal research grant - The University of Tulsa
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Securing the nation’s energy: Professor awarded federal research grant

Mauricio Papa

Brock Associate Professor of Computer Science and Cyber Studies Mauricio Papa was awarded $3.75 million in funding from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). He will lead an interdisciplinary team to conduct a gas pipeline security pilot study. Funding of this caliber is essential to support his groundbreaking work in energy security, transfer, and expansion.

“We are building a transformational facility that, once completed, can be used to conduct cyber security and operational research to help protect natural gas gathering and processing facilities from attacks,” Papa said.

When pipelines are unsecured, attacks can ensue such as on May 7, 2021, on the Colonial Pipeline. Cars lined the streets at gas stations across the eastern seaboard as panicked Americans worried about getting to work and getting their kids to school. The attack also resulted in losses estimated in the millions of dollars. Cyber attacks on the U.S. critical infrastructure have a debilitating effect on our society and economy.

Papa is leading a pilot study focused on gas pipeline security. At its heart is an operational technology (OT) environment that will enable researchers to investigate operational aspects of gas pipelines, provide access to OT data sets, and understand the effects of attacks and mitigation strategies.

“TU is uniquely positioned to conduct cutting edge research at the interface of cybersecurity and energy sustainability, with profound impact to society as a whole,” said College of Engineering & Computer Science Dean Andreas A. Polycarpou. 

“Research by TU faculty in the multifaceted energy sector has never been so vibrant,” remarked Vice President for Research and Economic Development Rose Gamble. “The funding his project has received is evidence of the critical nature of the work being carried out and a powerful sign of the rapid, impactful growth of research and development across TU.”

This federal research grant will further enable Papa to advance his mission of excellence at TU and contribute to the economic and social development of the nation.