Rursch: improving emergency response and cyber security

Julie Rursch, a new lecturer in the College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department, is interested in solving some of emergency management’s knottiest problems. Her goal: answer the question “What happens to infrastructure systems when a disaster occurs?”

Julie RurschAs part of her pursuit of a PhD in computer engineering at Iowa State this year, Rursch is developing a modeling tool called Critical Infrastructure Modeling and Response Environment (CIMoRE). The tool is designed to integrate heterogeneous infrastructure systems such as roads, transportation systems, power grids and other utilities, telephone networks, and more into one cohesive view to assist emergency planning and response.

“Right now, emergency planning tends to be a series of tabletop exercises. You talk through various scenarios,” she says. “This tool would give emergency management a way to visualize what would happen if this system was damaged, what else it would take out. How would they evacuate people, or move supplies to an area? This modeling system gives them a way to see how different infrastructure systems affect each other.”

Rursch will join Iowa State’s new Information Systems Security Laboratory (ISSL), a training and education outreach program established to provide Iowa business and industry with courses and on-site training in information security.

ISSL is a partnership of Iowa State’s Information Assurance Center (IAC), the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the College of Engineering, and the Institute for Physical Research and Technology (IPRT).

She says her professional background as a chief information officer for St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and then as senior IT executive for CampusWorks, Inc., of Sarastota, Florida, brings valuable experience to her work for ISSL.

“I worked as a consultant to mostly higher education institutions who may have had a miscue when implementing a new administrative system database, a network environment, or course management software, and helped their IT staff find the solutions they needed to turn the project around,” Rursch explains.

She will also continue her role as the assistant director of IT-Adventures, an outreach program and competition aimed at cultivating the interest of high school students in cyber security, robotics, and game design. Rursch was a co-founder of the program, which is now in its sixth year and is an outgrowth of Iowa State’s very successful cyber defense programs for college students. She earned the Iowa Technology Association Women of Innovation Award for her leadership with the IT-Adventures program, and she, along with Andy Luse and Doug Jacobson, earned the IEEE Transactions on Education Best Paper Award in 2011 for evaluating the program’s first year.

Rursch received a bachelor’s degree in applied science from Western Illinois University in 1985, a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State in 1988, and a PhD in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994.

She has taught computer science courses in programming, networking, security, and emerging technologies at St. Ambrose University and at Southeastern Community College.