PhD student and campus community leader Gaspard Baye '25 came to UMass Dartmouth from Cameroon to pursue an advanced degree in cybersecurity studies. With a focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, Gaspard is working to make the world a safer place, while also serving as a leader and advocate for his fellow students.
Why did you choose UMass Dartmouth?
"I met Dr. Lance Fiondella while working on an international project with ATR Cyber. He encouraged me to come here to pursue a PhD.
"I wanted to come to the U.S. because this is a place where talent is valued and there are more opportunities in the field of cybersecurity. I come from a very big family back in Cameroon and I am the first-born child, so my family depends on me.
"At UMass Dartmouth, I have the opportunity to work closely with faculty who are experts in their field. To pose new ideas and have those ideas validated by faculty makes UMassD the top choice for me."
What do you think is special about UMass Dartmouth?
"The community aspect of campus makes this a special place. People here are kind to each other, and always willing to help, even if they don’t know you. Faculty are open to new ideas. There is a strong sense of belonging. I feel at home even though I am far from home."
What about cybersecurity is most exciting to you?
"Cybersecurity is always evolving and changing every day. There are always new challenges. It requires creative thinking to come up with novel ways to defend and protect computer systems, people, data, and technology."
What is the focus of your research?
"My research is focused on leveraging deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up vulnerability detection and mitigation. Deep learning is a type of machine learning inspired by how the human brain works. AI is a tool, and, just like any other tool, there are threat actors who will use it to cause harm. We anticipate that we will be able to use machine learning to defend against threat actors who are also using machine learning for harmful purposes."
Tell us about your role in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
"I served as President of the National Society of Black Engineers at UMassD for the 2022-2023 academic year. The purpose of NSBE is to increase the number of Black engineers, promote members' academic success, and uplift others who will follow in our footsteps.
"Members of NSBE also have access to personal and professional development activities and opportunities to connect with top companies in our fields. We partner with organizations and companies who know the value of NSBE and seek out NSBE students specifically for jobs and internships. This year we joined more than 10,000 NSBE members nationwide at the annual convention in Kansas City where more than 300 companies were conducting recruitment.
"NSBE is important because our members are often underrepresented in their field or are first generation college students. It's important for students to see people like themselves succeeding. There is a saying, 'show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.' NSBE provides a powerful peer network as well as mentorship, friendship, and academic support."
As president of NSBE, what are some of the challenges and rewards of being a leader?
"I sought a leadership role because I wanted to learn, and I definitely learned a lot. Computer systems are easy to manage; people are much more difficult!
"One of the challenges of being a leader was not always knowing the answer to a question or problem. I got a lot of advice from past NSBE presidents and faculty members. I learned that you don't have to know all the answers all the time to be a good leader.
"I also learned how to effectively advocate for our students, like making sure they have the opportunities they need, or raising funds for our travel. I am often in the position of making the case for why these activities are important. But it is also extremely rewarding to help students get their dream job or internship."
How has UMass Dartmouth prepared you for your future?
"UMassD has connected me with the right people, and helped me develop leadership, management, and technical skills. This school has prepared me academically but also prepared me for life."
What advice do you have for current or future UMassD students?
"Don’t be afraid to approach faculty or fellow students for help; there is always someone who has been where you are."
What are your plans after finishing your PhD?
"Cybersecurity is changing so fast. There are always new threats on the horizon that jeopardize our privacy and safety. I want to join the fight to protect people and defend against those who would use this technology to cause harm.
"I want my work to contribute to the betterment of humanity and improve human lives. Eventually, I would like to give back to my community as a teacher. When it comes to my career, I am open-minded as long as it aligns with that mission to improve people's lives, whether as an engineer or an educator."