Internship put Punteney on forefront of national security

· 4 min read

Internship put Punteney on forefront of national security

Husker's work through NSRI supported U.S. Strategic Command
Technical Sergeant Taylor Drzazgowski, USSTRATCOM public affairs specialist.
Caden Punteney shakes hands with Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, U.S. Strategic Command deputy commander at Offutt Air Force Base.

This summer, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Caden Punteney pursued his interest in cybersecurity through a strategic deterrence internship with the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska.

During the ten-week internship, the sophomore Raikes School student worked with another intern to apply best practices in crowdsourced radio frequency network penetration testing to identify and protect networks from vulnerabilities in the electromagnetic spectrum. This work supported U.S. Strategic Command and the Department of Defense. Punteney worked under professor Andrew Harms and NSRI’s Allen Geist and Chris Luther, among others. At the culmination of the internship, Punteney and 10 other interns presented their findings to Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, USSTRATCOM deputy commander, at the command’s headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Nebraska.

“It was really interesting having students work in the space of electromagnetic spectrum operations, which is a key command priority,” Luther said. “Given that Caden just finished his freshman year, it was really impressive how quickly he absorbed the information he was given. He was a natural briefer, and he has excellent communication skills. I have confidence he will go far, and we would love to see him pursue a career in national security.”

Punteney and his teammate conducted extensive research throughout the summer and created the 15-minute briefing for command leadership. Their presentation demonstrated their interest in national security and the work they completed throughout the internship. Punteney said they received positive feedback and encouragement to continue to pursue a career in national security, followed by time for networking.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was a great experience,” he said.

Caden Punteney
Technical Sergeant Taylor Drzazgowski, USSTRATCOM public affairs specialist.

Punteney sought out the NSRI internship to gain experience in cybersecurity.

“When I was younger, I really wanted to be a doctor because I was interested in helping people,” he said. “I gravitated away from that, but I still had an interest in helping people and having a meaning behind my work. I think cybersecurity is a good way to do that because you’re essentially helping to protect everyone around you.”

In his internship, Punteney conducted research and analyses on vulnerabilities in the electromagnetic spectrum. According to NSRI, EMS superiority is essential to successful modern military operations to mitigate risks to U.S. national and economic security. Punteney worked with a fellow intern from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The other interns, six of whom hailed from the NU system and one from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, worked on other aspects of EMS and game theory. The game theory interns worked with decision-making in strategic relationships, especially with nuclear rivals.

Punteney gained experience in synthesizing data as he presented numerous smaller briefs leading up to the final findings presentation at the end of the summer.

His position gave him insight into what a career in national security would look like, and he’s now considering adding a national security minor in addition to his current business and mathematics minors.

“Before this internship, I was thinking that national security might be interesting, but I had no idea what working for the government would actually entail,” he said. “This internship has taught me a lot about what it’s like and it’s helped me realize that it is something I’m definitely interested in.”

Punteney enjoys the problem solving and creativity of computer science, and his interest lies in offensive cybersecurity. He’s interested in software-based jobs, such as flight software development and weapon systems.

Outside of his internship, the Lincoln native enjoyed slow-pitch softball, an online summer class and spending time with his brothers and friends.

This fall, Punteney is looking forward to getting back to school and seeing his friends. He’ll continue coursework for his computer science major while participating in clubs and intramural sports such as basketball and flag football.

Moving forward, he hopes to continue exploring opportunities in software engineering and cybersecurity next summer and beyond.

“Through NSRI I’ve learned there are a lot of opportunities in this field that I’m excited to be able to apply for,” Punteney said

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