A career in the physical sciences can be a great career path for anyone with a love of learning and solving complex problems. For the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), physical scientists apply their skills in a variety of areas, helping to both identify vulnerabilities and risks, as well as implementing solutions. The CISA mission extends well beyond cyber, and includes a number of highly specialized professionals working in careers as diverse as disaster response and data visualization. The opportunities are as diverse as the threats. For individuals with an extensive background in academia, the agency also offers a clear way to put those degrees into action.

That’s the path Reis Thomas, deputy section chief at CISA’s National Risk Management Center took. After obtaining a bachelor’s in meteorology, a master’s in environmental science and a doctorate in systems science, he eventually came to CISA.

“I applied this career path with CISA specifically to really apply my skills to a different area,” said Thomas.  “I saw the impact that this agency could have in this area, and I saw myself contributing to that.”

One of the ongoing narratives at CISA is the need for individuals with niche experience across the many risk factors that can affect cyber and infrastructure. Not all of those threats are nation states – sometimes they’re weather patterns.

“It really did challenge me to take what I know as a scientist and then bridge that gap between purely doing science – ‘hey the hurricane is going to go this way’ – to, ‘hey, the hurricane is going to go this way and this is what it means for infrastructure, and our partners, and the population,'” Thomas explained.

CISA scientists are applying their research to take the next step, to secure, defend, protect. It may not be the typical path for someone who considers themselves an academic, but Thomas emphasizes it’s a rewarding one. He advises those who may be interested in taking a similar career leap to do their homework, and ‘never limit yourself.’

The volume of data continues to grow – but it’s doing to take professionals who can partner science with data to find solutions – and those are the innovators CISA is looking to hire.

“The uniqueness of CISA is just that there’s so much you can contribute to, so much you can do across cyber and physical spaces,” said Thomas.


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