College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE Ph.D. student receives U.S. Army Research Laboratory Journeyman Fellowship Award

(L-R): Glen Dudevoir (U.S. Air Force Academy), John James (U.S. Military Academy), Daniel Opila (U.S. Naval Academy), Edward Shaffer (U.S. Army Research Laboratory), Katherine Duncan (U.S. Military Academy) and Vivek Singh (Ph.D. student at Iowa State University). This photo was taken during a research meeting at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.

Vivek Singh, a Ph.D. student with Iowa State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE), recently received the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Journeyman Fellowship Award. From September 2017 to January 2018, Singh completed an internship through the ARL Research Associated Program (RAP), working on a joint team project, including researchers from Idaho National Laboratory, the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Air Force Academy and the ARL.

“It feels great to receive such a glorious award,” Singh said.

Singh’s project responsibilities included developing a cyber physical testbed for the smart grid and proposing an Anomaly/Intrusion Detection Engine for detecting the possible attacks and providing appropriate mitigation in real time with a motive to develop the attack resilient system.

“Specifically, during the cyber physical testbed development, I worked on the power system modeling in the real-time simulator,” Singh said, “implementing communication protocol to enable the cyber network with a motive to develop wide-area monitoring, protection and control for the smart grid.”

Singh worked under the supervision of Edward Shaffer, chief of the energy and power division at the ARL, for the duration of his internship.

“During the [internship], my advisor introduced me to the ARL testbed, which only had the real-time simulator, and I worked with ARL lab employees to buy and install new software and tools, which were necessary to develop the cyber physical testbed,” Singh said.

On Iowa State’s campus in Ames, Singh works as a research assistant in the PowerCyber Laboratory with ECpE Mehl Professor and Associate Chair Manimaran Govindarasu. The goal of the PowerCyber Lab is to protect the cybersecurity of the electric power grid.

Their website states, “In recent years, there has been a growing threat of cyber-based attacks in numbers and sophistication on the nation’s electric grid and other critical infrastructure systems. Therefore, cybersecurity of the power grid — encompassing attack prevention, detection, mitigation, resilience and attribution — is among the most important research issues today and in the future.”

Govindarasu spoke of Singh’s work and the bigger picture of his internship.

“Vivek is a hardworking student, who is keen to acquire new knowledge and work with researchers beyond Iowa State,” Govindarasu said. “This ARL internship provided him an excellent opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in power distribution system and expand his knowledge in smart grid and cybersecurity. Moreover, his internship work has led to Iowa State becoming a partner in an ARL-led, ONR [Office of Naval Research]-funded project, titled, ‘Anomaly Detection for Cyber Physical System.’ We are currently working on implementing a testbed federation architecture for experimentation of grid’s cybersecurity. I expect this collaboration to shed some insights into key questions pertaining to the feasibility and limitations of testbed federation, and also to produce experimental results for several realistic cyber attack-defense use-cases.”

Singh said, “Working in the PowerCyber Lab helps me to sharpen and enhance my software- and hardware-related skills. It provides all kinds of resources you need to do world-class research in power system security.”

Since his return to Coover Hall, Singh has been implementing his newly learned skills in this research but also in his life outside of the lab. He is grateful for the support of his mentors.

“I would like to thank the ARL and associated colleagues, especially Dr. Edward Shaffer and Don Porschet, for assisting me with the resources and providing work-related feedback,” Singh said. He also thanks Govindarasu, along with ECpE Professors Venkataramana Ajjarapu and Ian Dobson for their support.

Singh said of his time at the ARL, “I learned to develop work-life balance while optimizing my time and resources to achieve bigger goals in my life. I would like to see myself contributing in developing the cyber resilient infrastructure for the next generation.”