College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Trent Walraven: Outstanding senior in cyber security


Knoxville, Iowa

Clubs and activities

I am the president of the Hacking and Cybersecurity Club (formerly the Information Assurance Student Group) and have also participated in the Culinary Science Club and Quiz Bowl. I have also actively competed in Capture the Flag events and Cyber Defense Competitions, where my team and I have most recently won an international competition, alongside winning multiple national and Iowa State competitions. I have also had a wonderful time taking several classes, such as “Innovations in Chocolate,” where I got to work way outside of my comfort zone, learning new skills in Culinary Arts and having an incredible time while doing so. 

Valuable hands-on learning in class 

The most valuable in-class project was building a MIPS processor in CPRE 381, which helped me deeply understand how and why a computer works. This really helps us understand why and how things happen in cybersecurity and how many common vulnerabilities exist. 

Out-of-the-classroom engineering experience 

The most influential out-of-class hands-on learning is the Cyber Defense Competitions. It covers so many areas of security, starting with securing vulnerable computers that we are given, learning how to properly configure, and setting up many different types of systems in many different environments. Then, on competition day, when professional hackers are brought in to hack into our computers, allowing us to learn about and practice active security measures such as monitoring logs and preventing malicious attacks. Then, when the professionals eventually get in, we also get practice acting as incident response, where we must figure out how the attackers got in, remove their access and anything they did to maintain access, and then write a report on it all, including how we fixed the issue. 

Most influential mentor 

Julie Rursch, associate teaching professor of electrical and computer engineering, is easily the most influential mentor. She has a passion for cybersecurity and, more specifically, teaching cybersecurity. She actively works to provide excellent knowledge to students, while making it clear and easy to understand, and easily has the knowledge to be working as a seasoned professional somewhere making significantly more money. Instead, she is passing on her knowledge, and skill set of how to think like a hacker to students, which is incredible, and something that I hope I can do, even if to a much smaller degree, in the future. 

Greatest accomplishment

Some of my greatest accomplishments are getting the chance to report a vulnerability to the City of Ames, that exposed thousands of people’s information, then later that same week winning the International Cyber Defense Competition while doing something unprecedented by not letting the Red Team steal any of our flags.  

Another one of my best memories is being a volunteer at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference held a few years ago. I got to meet and actively talk with professionals in cyber security, but I also got to meet and actively talk with multiple different Secretaries of State from across the nation about cyber security, policy around it, and what it’s like to be a student learning about it here at Iowa State. 

Plans after graduation 

I plan on continuing my education here at Iowa State, where I will be working on my master’s degree in cyber security. 

Making my mark on the world 

I’m looking to improve the world of embedded security, where devices are often left forgotten and vulnerable while remaining in use for potentially decades. 

Engineering like a Cyclone Engineer 

Many of the other programs that I hear about teach about using X or Y tools to do something, which is fine in the moment, but in a field like Cyber Security that moves extremely fast, that knowledge will be outdated in just a few short years. At Iowa State, the goal of the curriculum is to teach an understanding of why things happen, such as how a buffer overflow works, why a poor encryption algorithm is bad, etc. Instead of learning tools, it provides a knowledge base to continue learning from, allowing Cyber Security Engineers from Iowa State to adapt and learn from this ever-changing environment that is cyber security.