NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE Program

Written for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMC in 2019.

In our modern society, computing and digital communications are an ever-present aspect of life. Computer systems are part of our personal and social lives, our businesses, our infrastructure, and our government. But many of those systems were not designed with security in mind—leaving our computers and computer networks vulnerable to exploitation, accidental security failures, and cyber attacks.

The field of cybersecurity is concerned with improving the security of computing and communications systems. Cybersecurity professionals design new networks and digital systems with stronger security, research ways to refine the security of existing systems, and take on the role of hostile attackers to understand and repair the weaknesses in computer systems.

Fulfilling a Need

Canada has a desperate shortage of cybersecurity experts. We train less than half of the skilled personnel we need to defend our government, healthcare industry, critical infrastructure, businesses, and private citizens from cyber attacks—and that gap is only expected to grow. Few academics conduct cybersecurity research, and there is limited capacity to educate the public on safely navigating online environments. While some research institutes focus on cybersecurity and several universities offer graduate courses, there are limited training opportunities in the field.

RMC has always been at the forefront of cybersecurity research in Canada, offering a world-class technical program in computer security through the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Now we are taking the lead once more, and partnering with Queen’s University to bring comprehensive cybersecurity education to the people who need it.


A team of expert cybersecurity researchers at Queen’s University and RMC, led by Dr. David Skillicorn of the Queen’s School of Computing, have received a six-year, $1.65 million grant from the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. With it, we will train seventy-five skilled PhD candidates and Master’s students in critical cybersecurity skills—helping to close the gap in Canada’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

Students can participate by enrolling in a graduate program either at the Royal Military College or at Queen’s University. PhD graduates of the program will conduct cutting-edge research to keep Canada safer, and will train the next generation of cybersecurity specialists. Master’s graduates will play a key role in solving the urgent security challenges facing government, critical infrastructure, private industry, and Canadian citizens. All participants will benefit from a comprehensive program designed and developed collaboratively by leading cybersecurity researchers, including a complex exercise scenario modelled on the US National Security Agency Cyber Defence Exercise competition. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in an internship with one of our industry or government partners, where they will put their skills to the test in a real-world setting.

This program can be taken on a part-time basis, enabling current cybersecurity professionals to upgrade their skills without having to take long periods of time off work.