Ryan Piersma ’20

  • Hometown: Otsego, Michigan
  • Majors: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science
  • Minor: Arabic Language
  • GCS Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Lee
  • Grand Challenge Focus: Securing Cyberspace
  • Grand Challenge Thesis: “The Practicality of Cache-Based Side Channel Attacks”

Welcome to my Grand Challenge Scholars e-Portfolio! I am Ryan Piersma, a graduating senior in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, and on this magnificent webpage you will find documentation of my experiences undertaken throughout my undergraduate career in completion of the Grand Challenge Scholars program. The Grand Challenge Scholars program involves the following themes:

  1. Research
  2. Interdisciplinary Curriculum
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Global Experience
  5. Service Learning

The above hyperlinks take you to my documentation of my experiences fulfilling these themes in relation to addressing one of the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering. The Grand Challenge that I have chosen undertake is that of Securing Cyberspace.

I decided to become a Grand Challenge Scholar for two strong reasons. First, this program gives a structured framework for addressing the world’s greatest engineering problems, whose solutions would benefit millions of people around the globe. I love problem-solving, and what better way to apply this love than to use it to benefit the world community? Secondly, the Grand Challenge Scholars program requires tackling a grand challenge from many angles, as evidenced by the themes displayed above. These various angles imply the development of skills that I had never dreamed of using before, and I wanted to use this opportunity to expand my personal sphere of experience. For example, before joining this program I had never traveled internationally or thought of how to start a business!

I chose the challenge of Securing Cyberspace because our world is placing more and more of its value in the digital world, which increases the importance of defending all of the incredibly valuable information that people store on computers. In the process of learning how to better defend digital information I recognized that I would gain a greater understanding of the incredible field of computing while contributing to the world effort of securing cyberspace. As a prospective Electrical and Computer Engineer this challenge of securing cyberspace struck me as a crucial and intriguing application of what I had come to Duke to learn in the first place.