What do eyelashes have in common with computer security? For MITRE cyber intern Genesis Grant, there are interchangeable lessons to be learned.
Rising college junior Genesis Grant is exploring her passion in science and technology—an interest that earned her a spot in MITRE’s Cyber Futures Program. Meanwhile, she’s learning what it takes to run her own business. She spoke to us about her experiences.
I grew up in Calvert County, Maryland. My dad was an electrical engineer and technician and my mom stayed home raising my three sisters and me. I didn’t know it at the time, but my family showed me the true meaning of teamwork. Everyone played a part, and there was no hierarchy about whose role was most important. My mom woke up at 5 a.m. with my dad to prepare his lunch for work and ensure everyone’s day started on the right foot.
“Keep true to your school,” my dad would tell us, emphasizing his philosophy about the makings of a healthy life: importance of family, exercising and eating well, balancing work and home life, and so on.
From an early age, my window into the wide world of STEM [science, engineering, technology, and math] came from my dad. He inspired me to think about math as a universal language that connects us all. I was naturally drawn to STEM subjects, but it helped having an expert in the house.
In high school I immersed myself in STEM through Project Lead the Way, a curriculum built for students with interests in engineering, biomedical studies, and computer science. My dad continued to be the ultimate resource, and his support proved especially important when COVID interrupted my senior year.
I took my engineering passion with me to Bowie State University, Maryland’s first Historically Black College and University. I’m now a rising junior majoring in computer technology with a concentration in data science and database administration and a member of my university’s honor student organization. My schoolwork is very hands-on and combines the best of both worlds in computer technology—hardware and software.
Classroom Teachings Meet Real-World Applications
I came across MITRE’s Cyber Futures Program on my college listserv. Though I’m relatively new to cybersecurity, there are many interchangeable principles and tools I’ve learned in school that I can apply to my work here.
I consider everything I’m learning at MITRE to be building blocks for my next chapter.
Taking programming and scripting concepts from software—like Linux and Python—out of the classroom to a real-world environment and applying these skills to new topics has been really cool. I’m working on ways to secure AI and large language models (LLMs). From that experience, I’ve learned about emerging chatbots, adversarial attacks on LLMs, and ways to mitigate potential damages.
I’m impressed by the number of experts at MITRE, including my mentor Alexander Byrne, a cybersecurity engineer. Every time I have a question, I pick up at least three additional bits of knowledge from his answer. I’m absorbing information at a faster clip because the resources here are so vast.
It’s been interesting to learn about adversarial cyberattacks and how to defend against them, specifically on LLMs like ChatGPT, BARD by Google, GPT 2, and more. I’m eager to go back to school and continue discovering the breadth and depth of these tools.
Being Her Own Boss
Last year, I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit and started an eyelash extension business. I had no intention of creating a business, but with unwavering support from my roommate, family, friends, and community, I was able to explore a distinctly different trade.
Eyelashes are delicate. They require focus and a lot of patience, just like STEM projects. You start small then slowly work your way up to mastering techniques and specific skills. Lashes are challenging, but ultimately, I’ve enjoyed the process of building my expertise.
Like any challenge in life, you have to stay the course to reap the benefits. The experience has tested my work ethic and pushed me to learn the ropes of being my own boss.
A STEM Future That’s Wide Open
I’m not sure where my STEM passion will take me. I’m only halfway through school, so I don’t want to limit myself to any specific field. Data analysis holds a special place for me. Looking at raw data and attempting to find relevant information from the numbers has always been of interest.
I consider everything I’m learning at MITRE to be building blocks for my next chapter. Through this experience, I can feel my confidence expanding.