Infiltrating the Department of Defense: Davenport alumnus builds computer science career

Infiltrating the Department of Defense: Davenport alumnus builds computer science career

You need national clearance to know what alumnus Andrew Cranmer, ’15, is working on for the Department of Defense in South Carolina. Many of his duties are classified due to national security. Cranmer mainly works on projects relating to XXXXXXXXX, machine learning, XXXXXXXX, computer vision, XXXXXXXX and biometrics — similar to the courses he completed at DU as a computer science major.

While many of the details about Cranmer’s job at the Space and Naval Warfare Command System Center (SPAWAR) in Atlantic Branch are classified, his general role is as a scientist.

“Basically, if a project comes up that needs a computer scientist who has skills in machine learning, computer vision, biometric security or similar areas, I can be pulled into the project,” he said.

Cranmer, who is from Belding, Michigan, said his concentration on biometrics at DU set him apart from the crowd and helped lead to his current line of work. He credits one of his professors for his early success.

“Growing up, I had absolutely no idea what I would do until I got to Davenport,” he said. “As I got further into my program, I really started to enjoy it. Then I started questioning what I could do with the degree and found a mentor in Denny Bobeldyk.”

Bobeldyk, Assistant Professor for the College of Technology, encouraged Cranmer to apply for what would become a life-changing scholarship: the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program.

This highly competitive national scholarship is for students attending a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense as recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. DU was one of the first institutions to receive this designation and is one of just five four-year programs in Michigan to hold this designation.

Initially, Cranmer didn’t think he had a chance at winning and felt daunted by the long application process. With Bobeldyk’s help, however, his confidence grew. He wrote about his studies in biometrics because DU is one of only a handful of schools in the nation that offer the program.

“I would tell students to not let fear keep them from doing things,” Cranmer said.

“Apply for everything. This opportunity shaped my whole career.”

Though he is proud of receiving the DoD IASP scholarship while at DU, he said it also was scary to accept because the opportunity meant that he could be sent anywhere in the world that the DoD has employees. Cranmer feels fortunate to be stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is experiencing warmer winters and a new culture.

“Coming from Belding, Michigan, I hadn’t really ever been away from home,” he says. “It was nerve-wracking to pick up and move 1,000 miles away all by myself.”

Cranmer, who worked as a resident assistant for two years and played rugby for three years at DU, is continuing his pursuit of higher education. He recently completed master’s coursework at Southern Methodist University.

He said he enjoys the tangible, hands-on work at the DoD. However, his goal is to become a CIO or CTO — moving into a leadership and management role after he learns the technical aspects of the computer world.

This project was sponsored by the National Security Agency under Grant Agreement Number H98230-17-1-0366. The United States Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints notwithstanding any copyright notation herein.

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