Deputy director for research at McCrary Institute accepts joint appointment from Idaho National Laboratory

Published: Oct 12, 2023 9:45 AM

By Sydney Watson

Marcus Sachs, deputy director for research at Auburn University's McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security, recently accepted an incoming joint appointment from Idaho National Laboratory (INL) that will enable Auburn and INL to partake in specific government-funded research proposals that require laboratory and university agreements.

“INL is at the intersection of power, energy, cybersecurity and national security, and the ability to work closer with the energy labs on critical infrastructure protection is a big deal,” Sachs said. “My connection with INL goes back more than 20 years. It was when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was first created. People at INL were looking at power grid failures, Homeland Security was interested in both (cyber security and power infrastructure) and bringing the two of them together.”

Allan David, Auburn Engineering’s acting associate dean for research, is excited for Sachs’ joint appointment and considers the move a win for the college.

“Cybersecurity is an area of emphasis and strategic growth for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering,” David said. “Our engineering graduates are entering a world where devices, systems, and infrastructure are deeply connected with digital networks. The college is, therefore, committed to introducing Cyber-Informed Engineering (CIE) as an integral part of our curriculum. Marcus is very passionate about this topic and we are excited about the opportunity for him to leverage his experience and connection with INL to help promote these efforts at Auburn and beyond.”

Zachary Tudor, associate laboratory director of INL’s National & Homeland Security directorate, is confident that Sachs’ multifaceted career was key to his appointment.

“Marc has had a very long career in cybersecurity starting from his days in the Army, working in some of the national committees like the (president’s) NSTAC (National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee), and then transferring into DHS, he’s worked with the White House and all across research and development,” Tudor said. “Having him as a partner at Auburn was great itself, but also, having him as someone who has an even greater affiliation with our lab was just a great benefit to us and hopefully to him.” 

While Sachs’ background covers an array of disciplines, his primary project with INL is CIE, which provides the engineering groundwork to successfully build security into new products and existing infrastructure. According to Sachs, both he and INL are enthusiastic about CIE and expect visible progress in the field due to recent national attention.  

“Two years ago, INL launched the cyber-informed engineering project,” Sachs said. “This was the result of Congress’ funding for the Department of Energy that required them to develop a CIE strategy. Last year, Auburn hosted an event for the release of the strategy. This year Auburn hosted the launch event for the CIE implementation guide."

A joint appointment is a two-way street. Auburn’s extensive research experience combined with the unique capabilities of a Department of Energy laboratory can make the impossible possible.  

 “(The joint appointment) gives the labs access to universities, without me being on their paid staff, and likewise it gives universities access to labs without losing an employee,” Sachs said. “If Auburn is trying to put together a proposal, and the requirement for the government is that the university needs to partner with an FFRDC (federally funded research and development center) — INL is an FFRDC — and because I have a joint appointment, I can now be the representative of INL. The opposite is true for INL. If they are putting together a research project with federal funding, and they need university partners, they can list me without any further paperwork required, as Auburn now becomes their research partner.”

Not only does Sachs’ joint appointment open the door for collaboration with INL to him and the university, but also to students. With a belief in “work, hard work,” Auburn students are sought after to propel research projects forward across organizations.

Media Contact: Joe McAdory, jem0040@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447
Marcus Sachs believes Cyber-Informed Engineering provides the engineering groundwork to successfully build security into new products and existing infrastructure.

Marcus Sachs believes Cyber-Informed Engineering provides the engineering groundwork to successfully build security into new products and existing infrastructure.

Recent Headlines