ORP Feature – Dr. Miguel Gates

Feb 23, 2023 | Engineering and Science, Faculty/Staff, General News, Research

To celebrate Black History Month and the researchers at Louisiana Tech who make an impact on students and fellow faculty members, the Office of Research and Partnerships is highlighting Dr. Miguel Gates, program chair for Cyber Engineering.

Gates has used his unique experiences to inspire minority students to embrace meaningful careers through cyber education scholarship and research.

Gates came to Louisiana Tech in pursuit of gaining a doctorate through a Bridge to the Doctorate program at Jackson State University. The program provides students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) with the opportunity to attend a Predominately White Institution (PWI) to finish their degree, allowing students to gain broader experience in their chosen degree paths and careers.

After receiving his master’s from Jackson State University in 2008, Gates transitioned from computer science to a discipline in cyberspace at Tech where he would graduate with his doctorate in 2013.

“I was a part of the first group that took part in the cyberspace discipline within the doctoral program in Engineering,“ Gates said. “I came from a computer engineering background and segued into cyberspace after I realized that technology and security were at the forefront of where we are as a nation.”

Education has been an important aspect of Gates’ career. After becoming a teaching assistant, Gates became a mentor for all students but especially those who shared the same experiences as he did as a student at a PWI. 

“The reality is that there are a lot of students, myself included, who feel isolated the first time they step onto campus because there are not a lot of people of color in disciplines like engineering and science both on the student side and educator side,” Gates said. “We were far and few between, so the challenge was to find somewhere that I fit in and fight that imposter syndrome…then you recognize that you are capable of achieving anything as well as anyone else.”

As a graduate student in engineering, Gates became involved in Louisiana Tech’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Black Student Union (BSU).

“Tech does a phenomenal job of trying to bring together students of all walks of life and cultural differences. There are several different organizations and programs here that make students feel included and a part of the Tech family,” Gates said. “NSBE and the BSU made me feel like I had a small family. They made me feel like I was back at home and that made any challenges a little easier.” 

Currently, Gates contributed to various research efforts that will enhance cyber security, education, and the cyber security education workforce. These programs are the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service Program (SFS), the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (NOYCE), the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and the Louis Stokes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Pathways and Research Alliances: Louis Stokes Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-LAMP).

Each of these programs enhances STEM education throughout the state of Louisiana, funding scholarships, research opportunities, and postgraduate careers for students of all backgrounds and cultures.

“If we can increase the number of educators within these fields, it can open up doors for students in underfunded cyber and STEM programs and will bring diversity to these fields,” Gates said. “A part of my mission is to increase research of minority students, especially through LS-LAMP that provides minority students with the resources they need to be successful in their field.”

Dr. Sumeet Dua, Executive Vice President of Research and Partnerships, recognizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in research for both students and faculty. Dua said Gates is contributing to impactful research and scholarship opportunities that will enhance the STEM student experience.

“Minority students now more than ever have opportunities to make an impact on the research happening across campus through the efforts of Dr. Gates and his colleagues,” Dua said. “His contributions to various cyber and cyber education programs have offered invaluable support to DEI efforts in STEM fields.”

Dr. Hisham Hegab, Dean of the College of Engineering and Science, said Gates has been influential in bringing increased awareness and diversity to the college, impacting students through advisor roles and research efforts.

“His work consistently improves on the existing Cyber Engineering curriculum,” Hegab said. “He is active in outreach efforts, which include serving as advisor for the Association of Cyber Engineers and National Society of Black Engineers, as well as leading summer camp activities that encourage high school students and teachers to pursue cybersecurity topics.”

In the next stages of Gates’ career, he plans to keep his passion for teaching alive by being a light for students who may be facing the same struggles he did as an undergraduate and graduate student. 

“My goal is not only to be an educator and a teacher but also a guiding light for the other minority students here, to give them a person that they feel safe to talk to,” Gates said. “My door is always open to every student but especially those African-American students who need to talk with someone who has been in their shoes.