University of Iowa employee wins cybersecurity fellowship, gains resources to help researchers

Gabriella Perez, research technology compliance specialist with the University of Iowa and one of six Trusted CI fellows
Gabriella Perez, research technology compliance specialist with the University of Iowa and one of six Trusted CI fellows nationwide. (University of Iowa ITS — Research Services)

IOWA CITY — When it comes to data, University of Iowa researchers’ secrets are safe with Gabriella Perez.

As the school’s research technology compliance specialist since May 2017, Perez helps students and staff members navigate what often can seem like a labyrinth of data laws and policies — and she recently picked up new tools to help her in that role.

Perez, 28, of Cedar Rapids, was named in late April as one of six inaugural Trusted CI Open Science Cybersecurity fellows nationwide.

Through the program, under the National Science Foundation’s Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, Perez said she now has access to weekly digital presentations from cybersecurity experts and will receive funding to travel to three technical conferences this year.

As a fellow, Perez said she can share the University of Iowa’s cybersecurity needs with Trusted CI — “this is what we’re seeing on campus, these are the issues we’d like to focus on” — and then receive resources tailored to address them.

“For me, because I’ve worked so closely with researchers, it’ll be helpful to see what other organizations or institutions are doing in terms of cybersecurity,” she said.

Data storage and security regulations often can be vague, Perez said, and vary both based on the nature of the research — including on medical, educational or defense-related matters — and the scale, from local to international. The risks also can differ depending on the technology being used to collect and analyze data, including cloud-enabled and mobile platforms.


Depending on the specifics, Perez said she can connect researchers with different applications or campus services to ensure smooth legal sailing, and ensure any sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.

“Basically I’m giving them the reassurance on the university end of things that they’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Ben Rogers, the university’s research services director, said researchers will become “more effective stewards” of research data with help from Perez in her new fellowship role. He said they also will be able to write more competitive grant proposals, which often can include requirements for information security or management plans.

“These combined efforts strengthen the university’s overall compliance posture,” Rogers said.

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