Dr. Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life



Dr. Brian Robert Callahan

About me

I am the Graduate Program Director for and Senior Lecturer in the Information Technology and Web Science program (ITWS), and the Director of the Rensselaer Cybersecurity Collaboratory (RCC), at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in upstate New York. As a researcher, my focus is broadly on all things cybersecurity: from the highly technical to business and social cases for good cybersecurity practices. I am also interested in understanding how people learn and share their knowledge with technology; to that end, I also research digital humanities platforms. As a teacher, I am passionate about student growth and success. As a technologist, particularly in my role as a developer for the OpenBSD Unix-based operating system, I believe strongly in software security, portability, accessibility, and best practices for more ethical technologies.

I have a broad portfolio of cybersecurity and IT certifications including the ISC2 CISSP, CCSP, and SSCP, the ISACA CISM, the CSA CCSK, and the CompTIA CASP+, CySA+, PenTest+, and Security+, among others.

Prior to joining the ITWS program, I earned my Ph.D. and MS in Science & Technology Studies, also at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an MA in Anthropology from Monmouth University, and a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts (BHA) in Music Performance (Bassoon) and Anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Research

I have several research interests. Most recently, I won a grant from RPI to develop a national cybersecurity CTF using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies.

Previously, I won an award from the Earth Science Information Partners to run a pilot program to develop the next generation of NASA Data Pathfinder tools. NASA wrote a short article on the work we accomplished in our first year.

I am the Director of the Rensselaer Cybersecurity Collaboratory, the cybersecurity-focused research laboratory at RPI. We have engaged in research projects including quantum security, developing cybersecurity awareness training for the RPI community, blockchain security and sustainability, novel AI/ML models for IDS/IPS systems, and compiler-based mitigations for binary exploitation techniques. The RCC attracts graduate and undergraduate students from all majors to participate in paid and for-credit research projects. The RCC is also home to RPI's premier CTF team.

The RCC recently received funding from the RPI Office of Undergraduate Education to undertake a quantum research project for the RPI Quantum Computer unveiling celebration. We ultimately submitted a pair of projects: the first developing and cracking a homegrown RSA implementation using Shor's algorithm and the second developing a miniature LLM that can be fine-tuned with a quantum computer.

I also work in the research and development of digital platforms that enable and encourage novel modes of collaborative research. I have been a part of the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) design team since my graduate student days, under the direction of Drs. Mike and Kim Fortun. I currently serve the PECE design team as CISO, Lead Open Knowledge Developer, and Lead System Administrator for the project, in charge of information security, establishing and maintaining the global PECE network of servers, and developing best practices for digital collaboration.

With some of my students in W2SZ, I engage in research designing amateur radio experiments around protocol development and AI, some of which is published in QEX magazine.

My dissertation research focused on diversity and the distribution of ethics in the tech sector, particularly and primarily as understood by historically underserved groups. In my dissertation research, I engaged in a multi-year ethnography of Hypatia Software Organization, a hacker collective by and for trans women with the express mission to get impoverished trans women into life-sustaining technical careers through peer mentorship programs and other programs designed to keep participants meeting the basic needs of life in order to foster their learning. In addition to my research work with the collective, I served on the Board of Directors for Hypatia Software Organization, Inc., the 501(c)(3) non-profit arm of the collective.

Previously, as a graduate student I worked under Dr. Ron Eglash on his Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) project, as part of an NSF-funded GK-12 fellowship. My responsibilities in this project included coding and other development work to develop new CSDTs and extend existing ones, acting as a systems administrator for the project, working closely with teachers at Albany High School in Albany, NY, to teach STEM topics to high school students, and traveling across the United States working with teachers to get CSDT software set up for educational activities.

You can read some of my publications on my Academia.edu page.

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Teaching

My teaching encompasses and extends my research interests. My primary teaching responsibilities are the Information Security courses at the senior undergraduate and graduate levels and the Web Systems Development and the Web Science Systems Development courses at the lower undergraduate level.

Under the banner of Information Security, I teach the flagship Information Systems Security course, which I recently rewrote from scratch, as well as a new courses on Modern Binary Exploitation and Cloud Security. Upcoming courses include Digital Forensics and Ethical Hacking.

The Web Systems Development and Web Science Systems Development courses are a full-year sequence, typically taken during the Sophomore year, that dives deeply into web development theory and practice, culminating in the planning and complete execution of viable real-world web applications using the Apache-MySQL-PHP and MongoDB-Express-Angular-Node.js stacks. The sequence also prepares our students for further coursework in Data Science and Data Analytics through the teaching of the R programming language and basic theory behind Data Science and Data Analytics. Students are engaged in a wide variety of interesting real-world projects, most recently helping to develop the next generation of NASA Data Pathfinder tools.

As an advisor, I oversee the Information Security/Cybersecurity and Science & Technology Studies focus tracks at the undergraduate level and the Information Security/Cybersecurity/Information Dominance focus tracks at the graduate level.

I am the faculty coach for all RPI teams in the National Cyber League competitions, a national CTF tournament.

In the Spring 2024 NCL season, we had individuals place 23rd, 88th, 117th, 189th, 209th, 286th, 301st, 315th, 348th, 367th, 422nd, 427th, and 434th out of 7404 entrants and teams placing third, 16th, 138th, 209th, 299th, 308th, and 401st out of 4199 teams. We were ranked fourth in the nation in the Cyber Power Rankings.

In the Fall 2023 NCL season, we had individuals place second, 123rd, 143rd, and 152nd in a field of 7926 entrants and teams placing fourth and 83rd and in field of 4680 teams. We are ranked FIRST IN THE NATION in the Cyber Power Rankings.

In the Spring 2023 NCL season, an individual student placed third in a field of 6278 entrants and a team placed fourth in a field of 3593 teams. We were ranked fourth in the nation in the Cyber Power Rankings.

In the Fall 2022 NCL season, my teams placed in the 99th and 94th percentiles, with individual students placing in the 97th and 91st percentiles.

We also play a variety of additional CTF tournaments each year, including CSAW, CyberSEED, and many more.

I also serve as the faculty advisor for the RPI-Sage Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and W2SZ, the amateur radio club at RPI.

As a graduate student, I co-developed, with a faculty member in the Science & Technology Studies department, a 2-year sequence of courses that explore the interconnectedness between science, technology, and important topics in the humanities and social sciences. Dubbed the "...in Culture" series, courses included Gender in Culture, Race as a Global Challenge, and Sustainability by Design. You can see some of these syllabi on my Academia.edu page.

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In the news

Sometimes things I do end up on Internet technology news sites. Below is a small collection that I was made personally aware of.

As I do not have accounts on any of these news sites, I am reliant on others to find my work interesting enough to share. Thank you to those who share my work.

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