Friday, April 12, 2019

Gabby Perez

By Elizabeth Leake, ITS Research Services Communication Manager

University of Iowa (UI) Research Technology Compliance Specialist Gabriella Perez (Information Technology Services; Research Services) was one of six delegates selected from a nationally-competitive pool to participate in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Trusted CI Open Science Cybersecurity Fellows Program.

Trusted CI, serving as the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, provides cybersecurity leadership for research communities that leverage the federated computational and data resources supported by the U.S. taxpayer investment.

New in 2019, the Trusted CI Fellows Program recently chose­­­ six delegates who best represent the breadth of geography and scientific disciplines supported by Trusted CI. Each will receive professional development support in the form of training, resources and travel to technical conferences in their first year of engagement. In return, they agree to serve as a nationally-distributed conduit between Trusted CI, U.S. researchers and their international collaborators who leverage U.S. federated cyberinfrastructure (CI).

“Positioned on the front-line, Trusted CI Fellows can mitigate minor incidents, and then enlist our team’s assistance for more advanced challenges,” said Dana Brunson, Trusted CI Fellows Program Leader and Internet2 Executive Director for Research Engagement. “They’re in an excellent position to identify new and emerging threats and communicate challenges that pertain to unique communities of practice or geography so that Trusted CI can remain as responsive and agile as possible,” she added.

Perez has served in the UI compliance role since the position was created by UI Research Services Director Ben Rogers in 2017. She is the primary campus point-of-contact (POC) for technology compliance among researchers and the campus OneIT network of technical specialists. UI is a regional-serving university in an NSF-EPSCoR jurisdiction (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). With about 33,000 students, 1,500 faculty and thousands of professional staff—and a vibrant research presence in each of UI’s nine professional colleges—Perez supports everyone from the principal investigator (PI), to staff members and students who utilize the campus computing cluster. “Having Gabby in this dedicated role benefits researchers who, with her help, are becoming more effective stewards of research data; they’re also able to write more competitive grant proposals,” says Rogers. “These combined efforts strengthen the university’s overall compliance posture,” he adds.

Trusted CI Fellow Gabriella Perez (UI) on right with John Saxton (UI Storage Systems Administrator) at the UI Research Services Fair

With large medical and public health colleges on campus, much UI research involves HIPAA compliance (Health, Insurance, Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). “My goal is to ‘get to yes’ – to find safe and secure IT solutions that make research easier,” says Perez.  “Every day I receive a variety of questions; for example, today I was asked how to secure a laptop while traveling abroad, and I helped a librarian write a data management plan for an NSF grant their PI is applying for,” she said.

By working closely with UI’s Division of Sponsored Programs and through serving on the UI Institutional Review Board (IRB), Perez has gained a better understanding of the local, state and federal policies relating to research, and university governance, in general. As the IRB-POC for questions relating to human subjects data – both funded and unfunded (NSF, National Institutes of Health, university administrative and departmental, etc.)—Perez is well-positioned to help stakeholders identify the most secure and efficient storage solution available that is appropriate for the classification of data involved.

Cloud-enabled and mobile technologies present risks that Perez is eager to conquer. “International collaborations and inter-institutional engagement might be funded by a variety of public and private assets—each with its own unique regulations,” she said. “The research landscape is always changing; it’s sometimes tricky to know what the right answer is or even who to ask. This is why I am especially excited about becoming a Trusted CI Fellow,” she adds.

“Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important to ensure the reproducibility and productivity of research,” says Brunson. “However, research has requirements for collaboration and high-performance that challenge traditional enterprise cybersecurity. And data integrity is often a much stronger emphasis to ensure the trustworthiness of scientific results,” she adds.

Photo: Trusted CI Fellow Gabriella Perez (UI) on right with John Saxton (UI Storage Systems Administrator) at the UI Research Services Fair

About Trusted CI

Trusted CI, the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, provides the NSF community a coherent understanding of cybersecurity’s role in producing trustworthy science and the information and know-how required to achieve and maintain effective cybersecurity programs. Trusted CI is a distributed center led by the Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research with partners at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, University of Wisconsin, Internet2, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More information about Trusted CI is available at, along with a complete list of fellows.