Yun declares cybersecurity engineering major at George Mason University

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Jiayi Li

Senior Kasey Yun checks a code he created in class.

Jiayi Li, Page Editor

Sitting in a mesh, black chair, senior Kasey Yun hunches over his computer. Its luminous and radiant light hits his face, forming highlights and stretching out shadows. The keyboard clicks as he develops security for his household. Doing so, he passes the threshold from reality to a world of technology. 

High school is often considered the time to explore interests and afterward, decide whether it’s worth continuing to pursue after graduation. Yun spent his high school years studying computer science. With an interest in computer science and cybersecurity, Yun declared his major as cybersecurity engineering at George Mason University (GMU). 

“[Cybersecurity is] like a game. You have to keep up with defenses on a computer, on a system and everything else that’s going on in the world around you. It’s not a complex subject, but it’s not easy either,” Yun said. 

Yun’s interest in computer science sparked after taking ‘Intro to Scratch’ at Skyline Middle School.

“One of the first experiences I had with computer science was working on a scratch project in the sixth grade. To me, it was something amazing to be able to make a game for dozens of people to enjoy so quickly,” Yun said. 

He learned the basics of programming from that class, but he continued to expand his skills in high school.

Yun’s first encounter with cybersecurity was in an intro to cybersecurity class with teacher Geoffrey Estes during his junior year. From basics to complex studies, his method of teaching entranced Yun. His classes were relatable to him, the students, and the environment surrounding them. With his assistance and teachings, Yun learned how to be comfortable with asking for help. 

“Mr. Estes does his utmost to support students and their wishes. When we run into problems, we get the chance to see him learn with us. In our field, there often isn’t one straight answer,” Yun said. “Personally, I can say that Mr. Estes has helped me to become a little more comfortable saying that I don’t know the answer to a question, which is probably one of the most important things you can learn.” 

Yun ensured to apply his knowledge to activities outside of school. He has worked on a range of computer science projects, from coding word games to improving cybersecurity at home.

“I generally spend time working out my main problems, following a simple process: ‘what is my goal, how do I want to reach that goal and what do I know that can help me get there.’ When that’s done, I test the project and make changes to help improve the quality of it,” Yun said. “After that, [I] test it again, and I hope I didn’t break it, but it’s alright if [I] did because I made a backup.”

When taking Mr. Estes’ course on cybersecurity, Yun learned the inner workings of cybersecurity and what he can do to improve it. While he knew he wanted to major in something related to computer science, that course helped him decide on his major of cybersecurity engineering at GMU. 

“I had always been curious about how the technology that protects so many systems on the internet worked. Getting a chance to play the role of both attacker and victim was fun for me. I understand how to defend against exploits now that I had set them up,” Yun said. 

That class, however, was not his only motivator. The biggest factor in his decision was his hope to help others with his skills. 

“The collective experiences I’ve had pushed me in this general direction. It was just up to me to make that last step, which I made thinking how important [cybersecurity and computer science] had become to me,” Yun said. 

Knowledge of the inner workings of cybersecurity has influenced Yun’s life. As he moved on to more complicated subjects, his middle and high school courses created the foundation for his work. 

“Cybersecurity is a very important subject to know about even if you’re not planning to go into it. If these systems are hacked or have data stolen from them, people’s lives are at stake. It can honestly impact your life very, very directly,” Yun said. “Cybersecurity is more than just protecting people’s computers but protecting lives.”