Mercyhurst's CIRAT: Summer’s abuzz with Beehive and beyond

Students at CIRAT event

The Beehive, SAINT, Watch, and more are all buzzing enterprises at Mercyhurst University’s Center for Intelligence Research Analysis & Training (CIRAT) this summer.

CIRAT’s mission is to provide opportunities with business and government entities through contracts, grants, and academic partnerships to professionalize the capabilities of Intelligence Studies and Computer Information Science students, making them competitive in the job market upon graduation.

“Our work is year-round, so we don’t stop, but we do slow down in the summer,” said CIRAT Director Brian Fuller. “During the academic year, we’ll have 120 students a semester working on projects; this summer we have 25. We need them here, so most are either from the Erie area or are international students who are staying here for the summer.”
Student analysts gain real-world skills in competitive intelligence, strategic intelligence, tactical intelligence, data analytics, and cyber security by working with different types of organizations across the nation and internationally.
At least a dozen students are working at the university’s Innovation Entente Lab, which is a member of the grant-funded northwest Pennsylvanian Innovation Beehive Network. The group provides competitive business intelligence products, data science solutions, and cybersecurity support, all free of charge, to small businesses and entrepreneurs in the region.

Three students alternate between the SAINT and Watch programs. SAINT helps NGO clients combat human trafficking, kidnapping, and runaway situations for at-risk persons, using the university’s state-of-the-art technology resources in cyber security, intelligence analysis, and data science.

Watch is a program that utilizes the AirNav Radarbox—cutting-edge technology that offers worldwide tracking of commercial, military, and general aviation flights. Fuller said that students regularly monitor air traffic to notify clients of indicators that could potentially affect their operations. “If we start to see changes in normal patterns of life—let’s say China reduces or eliminates domestic flights over Taiwan airspace—that allows us to consider that China may be intending some kind of military action in the region and notify our clients of the possibility.”

They, in turn, can use that information to develop contingency plans, considering everything from how to manage supply-chain concerns if China were to close ports to how to protect its intellectual property in that domain.

Students also practice open-source intelligence and business information analysis in CIRAT’s new Business Intelligence and Innovation Lab (BI2) in partnership with the Security Executive Council (SEC). In that way, they help corporate security leaders identify information relevant to security and risk management for the private sector. The CIRAT also does strategic intelligence work for the U.S. Space Command.

Important dates on the horizon for CIRAT this summer include: 
June 27—Annual Beehive celebration for all member institutions and clients, being held at PennWest Edinboro. 
July 17-18—Mercyhurst welcomes youth from the Police Athletic League (PAL) at a two-day camp where they learn about careers in law enforcement that focus on cyber security, intelligence, and data science.  
July 19 —Mercyhurst hosts a meeting of the Strategic Consortium of Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), Mid-Atlantic Intelligence Center of Excellence, at the university’s Police Academy.