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UMass gets $15m for cybersecurity program

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UMass Amherst’s library as seen across the campus pond.Nancy Palmieri

University of Massachusetts Amherst's computer science programs are about to enjoy a growth spurt, thanks to a $15 million grant from a foundation established by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., better known as MassMutual.

The MassMutual Foundation will donate the money over 10 years, with $12 million going to the university's Center for Data Science. The center, founded last year, studies methods for analyzing vast amounts of information about complex systems. Insights from data science can be applied to almost any area of knowledge, from retailing to medicine to national security.

Another $3 million will go to the university's Cybersecurity Institute, which will launch a new security training center in Springfield, where MassMutual is located. The center will offer a certification program in cybersecurity, where students can boost their network security skills without having to complete a four-year degree program.

"We're going to be using that money to jumpstart faculty hiring," said UMass Amherst chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who said the faculty roster at the two facilities would be boosted to 40 members from its current 20. Subbaswamy said the university has already received the first tranche of funding and "we're hiring faculty even as we speak."


Andrew McCallum, director of the Center for Data Science, said MassMutual may have been swayed to provide the money by its success in hiring UMass data scientists. "MassMutual hired some of our Ph.D students," said McCallum, "and they were seeing tremendously positive results."

Nick Fyntrilakis, president of the MassMutual Foundation, said UMass Amherst is already a nationally recognized leader in data science and cybersecurity. "This gift really helps take us to the next level," he said. In addition, Fyntrilakis said the grant would benefit the entire Pioneer Valley economy, by providing an ample supply of trained data scientists.


Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.