SMU’s Deason Institute to partner with Goldman Sachs and Prairie View A&M for cyber security research

DALLAS (SMU) – The Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is partnering with global financial services company Goldman Sachs, with support from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), for research designed to detect and defend against cyber threats related to employees working remotely.

The master research agreement is set up to support a long-term research partnership with Goldman Sachs’ Global Cyber Defense and Intelligence (GCDI) team. The partners intend to use the arrangement to train talent for both industry and academia, propose solutions to cyber challenges, and to appear and publish in academic and industrial forums.

“We are excited to partner with the future cyber leaders at SMU and PVAMU. This research initiative increases our ability to make significant contributions across the cyber industry and research communities while providing practical training to advance the cyber defense mission,” said Wes Williams, global lead of Goldman Sachs Cyber Defense and Intelligence.

Pairing SMU with Prairie View A&M, a historically black college/university (HBCU), is a unique opportunity to help build the workforce for the high-demand U.S. cyber security industry. In the most recent workforce study produced by (ISC)2, a global cyber security professional organization, two-thirds of the participants reported that a cyber security staffing shortage is putting their organizations at risk, and 73 percent reported that hands-on cyber security experience is the primary factor they use in determining if a candidate is qualified for a job. 

“Students at SMU and Prairie View will get that first-hand experience in using machine learning for cyber defense, working with and extending the capability of state-of-the-art software,” said Eric Larson, SMU associate professor of computer science and co- principal investigator in the Goldman Sachs research project along with Deason Institute Executive Director Mitch Thornton. 

The research relationship with the two universities will tap the skills of undergraduate cyber security majors from Prairie View in tandem with graduate-level cyber security students at SMU. Researchers from both universities envision a pipeline to high-paying cyber security jobs for students who start their studies at Prairie View and complete graduate education at SMU.

“Students who have worked with SMU’s Deason Institute for Cyber Security are recruited out of the program like NFL draft picks,” Thornton said.

Na Li, associate professor and coordinator of the cyber security concentration at Prairie View is anticipating significant benefits to her students from this collaboration.

“This collaborative project with SMU and Goldman Sachs will create a great opportunity for students to engage in a real-world cybersecurity project, where they will strengthen their skills and research capabilities,” Li said. “We are looking forward to working together on this project.”

Global financial services company Goldman Sachs has a large presence in Dallas. Cyber security experts at Goldman Sachs protect the firm’s clients and the integrity of the firm.



About SMU

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and more than 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.


About Prairie View A&M University

Designated an institution of “the first class” in the Texas Constitution, Prairie View A&M University is a historically black university and the second-oldest public institution of higher education in the state. With an established reputation for producing engineers, nurses, and educators, PVAMU offers baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degree programs through eight colleges and schools. A member of The Texas A&M University System, the university is dedicated to fulfilling its land-grant mission of achieving excellence in teaching, research, and service.


About Goldman Sachs

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a leading global financial institution that delivers a broad range of financial services across investment banking, securities, investment management and consumer banking to a large and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals. Founded in 1869, the firm is headquartered in New York and maintains offices in all major financial centers around the world.