Chemical engineering professor Dr. Helen Lou receives Grant from National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $300,000 to Dr. Helen Lou, professor of chemical engineering, to lead an interdisciplinary project to equip the future workforce with knowledge and skills on industrial cybersecurity. Helen Lou

The effort will enlist Lamar University researchers across Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, and Criminal Justice in the development of suitable educational materials to address cybersecurity needs for critical energy and chemical infrastructure sectors. These materials will be integrated into the University’s undergraduate curriculum and tested for their efficacy, eventually leading to impactful educational outcomes for graduates of these programs at Lamar University and beyond. 

“Despite the emerging attention on cybersecurity, there is a severe shortage of expertise in cybersecurity, especially industrial cybersecurity,” said Helen.  

Southeast Texas is home to dozens of refineries and petrochemical industrial complexes critical to the energy infrastructure of not only Texas but the entire nation.  The region has dozens of refineries that provide approximately one-third of transportation fuels in the United States as well as the largest operational liquefied natural gas terminal in the country.  Cybersecurity is crucial to these industries, which suffer from a severe shortage of expertise in this discipline as it does not fall within the traditional chemical engineering curriculum.

Vulnerability to cyberattack in this sector has been amplified with the deployment of advanced information and communication technologies to improve data analytics, automation, and remote operations. The materials developed from this innovative project won’t only benefit Lamar University – the researchers plan to present their multidisciplinary curriculum at conferences, publish in journals, and host workshops intended to create a new generation of hybrid engineers, computer scientists, and criminologists that understand the cybersecurity needs of industrial companies. 

Dr. Lou is uniquely positioned to carry out this research and enhance the cybersecurity readiness of industrial infrastructure due to her educational background including a Master of Science in Computer Science as well as a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, both from Wayne State University. She is a Fellow of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and is well connected with the industries, organizations, and societies of these sectors.  Her research often combines her expertise in computation and engineering, including the intersection of data analytics and process systems engineering, sustainable technology development, and enhancements to safety and reliability of these industries. 

To learn more about the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering or Dr. Lou, please visit