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Amber Keegan Completes Ashok Kumar Fellowship With Cyber Security Briefing To Government Policymakers

The first postgraduate to complete the Ashok Kumar Fellowship since its relaunch last year by the Materials Processing Institute and Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has produced a briefing for Government policymakers highlighting the need to expand the UK’s specialist cybersecurity workforce and increase critical infrastructure resilience.

As part of the Fellowship, Amber Keegan spent a three month work placement in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) during which she reviewed literature and interviewed experts from across academia, industry, and government.

A postgraduate in chemical engineering at the University of Sheffield, she explored how and why states use cyber operations, and the threats posed to the UK. Her published briefing note comes as parliament considers the National Security Bill, and the Government reviews the Computer Misuse Act – the UK’s main piece of legislation regarding computer-dependent crime.

It highlighted that the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks has increased by 30 per cent to 777 incidents in the four years to 2020/21, with industry, academia, defence and business sectors routinely targeted.

Keegan’s policy briefing, available to select committees, individual parliamentarians and the public, highlights the following approaches to help address the issues:

  • Upskilling and growing the specialist cyber security workforce
  • Improving basic cyber security standards
  • Increasing the resilience of critical national infrastructure
  • Developing the UK’s ability to conduct offensive cyber operations
  • Developing digital technologies and standards

Amber Keegan said: “It was the engineering skills of problem solving, attention to detail and analytical thinking that helped me quickly understand a complex new topic and draw out key messages. I would encourage anyone who loves engineering and is interested in exploring more about how it can impact society to apply for the Fellowship.”

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Teesside-based Materials Processing Institute, said: “Amber is a shining example to other women and those from diverse backgrounds of the opportunities available within the traditionally male dominated disciplines of engineering and science.

“As a result, she has informed policymakers at the very highest level of an extremely pressing issue that is a national as well as a global threat. She has shown how chemical engineers can make a positive contribution to UK policy and I trust she will prove an inspiration to others considering STEM careers.”

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship is named in memory of Dr Ashok Kumar, who was the only chemical engineer serving in Parliament as Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, at the time of his sudden death in 2010.

Dr Kumar was a Fellow of IChemE and worked as a research scientist for British Steel Corporation, a forerunner of the Materials Processing Institute, from 1985 to 1997. The Fellowship originally ran from 2010 until 2018 before it was re-established in 2021 by IChemE and the Institute.

Open to engineers who have completed a degree at undergraduate Masters level or above, in a discipline related to chemical or process engineering, or with equivalent industry experience, for further details of the Ashok Kumar Fellowship visit: https://www.mpiuk.com/ashok-kumar-fellowship.htm

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