home > News & Events > Spotlights > Planning for complexity in cybersecurity: Caroline Vincent

by Stefanie Koperniak

SDM student and Draper Scholar Caroline Vincent is applying systems thinking to real challenges in military technology as a Cyber Officer in the US Army. She will be attending Army Cyber School after graduating from SDM.

As a 2022 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she studied engineering management with a software focus, Caroline says her longstanding interest in cybersecurity was one of the reasons she decided to attend West Point.

“The cyber world is essentially a large system. Cybersecurity requires a systems approach for risk analysis and management, system design and integration, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Caroline. “It’s also important to learn how to lead in a technology setting.”

She says that SDM expands upon what she learned in studying engineering management as an undergrad. In fact, one of her instructors at West Point was SDM alumnus Arthur Middlebrooks. The curriculum in the master’s program at MIT gives a broader perspective—teaching not only about the tools, but also frameworks for system development and integration. She especially likes the ability to tailor the program to her own interests, as well as being surrounded by students working in such a diversity of areas.

“It’s unique to be in a classroom with so many people of different backgrounds and interests, all taking what they learn into their own fields,” says Caroline. “Some are focused on data science, while others are focused on sustainable engineering or other fields.”

Caroline started research at Draper before beginning at SDM, working on optimizing a drone application and helping the drones avoid moving obstacles. Although she had little exposure to working in this area in undergrad, she interned with a company that builds and flies drones for military red-teaming operations. Through Draper, she also taught an MIT BeaverWorks summer course—for high school students interested in STEM—about autonomous vehicles.

Caroline’s SDM thesis builds on the earlier work she did with Draper, focusing on reinforcement learning for multi-agent autonomous robotic systems, aiming to develop the AI and decision-making needed to help a swarm of drones to navigate without colliding into each other.

Caroline says she especially enjoys optimization and considering the many factors involved in making a system work successfully.

“How do you make the system resilient to future uncertainty, integrate between multiple agents in a system, and how does it all affect the environment?” says Caroline. “Systems thinking is really about problem solving.”