Patricia Tamburelli’s favorite leisure activity is reading fictional crime novels, which isn’t far removed from what she teaches students in her information security classes. Like a typical character from those books, she never set out to become an expert in her field. It just happened.
“I never planned to be a teacher,” says Tamburelli, assistant professor of information technologies. “When I was ready to graduate from college, a middle school teacher in my hometown didn’t show up. The principal called my mother and asked if I could fill in. On the first day there, I realized that this was what I should be doing all my life.”
She taught in middle school, then at a business college and eventually became an adjunct instructor at County College of Morris (CCM), working her way up to a full-time position.
How she became involved in defending against cybercrime was also serendipitous. After launching a web design certificate at CCM, she began searching for the next important development in the field.
“My husband was a retired policeman, so the field of information security drew my attention,” she says. In 1999, she attended the Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education (CISSE) sponsored by the Department of Defense in Washington. “I started building information security courses and a program matching the federal 4011 training standards.” Today, she is on the board of directors for CISSE and is involved in developing CCM's reputation as a regional center for information security training.
SHARPENING SKILLS THROUGH COMPETITIONS
Tamburelli sharpens her skills by participating in national cyber competitions. “You’re given a scenario and you have to attack and defend a network. You get points for attacking or defending successfully.”
She also works on two academic task forces – Cyberwatch and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. “We’re developing a national curriculum in information security education so everyone is teaching the same thing.”
Like a character out of one of her favorite crime novels, Tamburelli spends a great deal of her time working with top government and private industry experts to protect against crime – in her case cybersecurity – proving that truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction.