Ellis Joins CHDS Faculty

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By his own admission, Ryan Ellis came to the field of critical infrastructure protection from an "odd angle."

Ellis is the newest faculty member at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, where he will teach critical infrastructure protection.

At first glance his academic background, with a doctoral degree in communication from the University of California, San Diego, may not appear to be geared toward the complexities of critical infrastructure protection.

"I came at it from an odd angle," Ellis said. "Initially when I started my academic career I focused on regulatory reform."

His interest in regulation was sparked by the 2001 anthrax case in which spores were mailed to media outlets and some congressional representatives just a week after the Sept. 11 attacks.
He researched the attacks, analyzing what the Centers for Disease Control did effectively and what it did that was not effective. From there, his interest evolved into railroads, the electric grid and other infrastructure along with the security challenges facing those industries.

"Like most projects, I began in one place and ended up somewhere else," Ellis said.

Ellis has most recently worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University where he has continued research emanating from his doctoral dissertation – studying the relationship between law, policy, and system architecture in energy, communication and transportation networks. He looks forward to integrating cyber-security topics into the course.

"There is a really an opportunity for me and the master’s degree students to do important work in that area," he noted.

Ellis will be leaving CISAC for Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where he will study cyber-security and technology policy. His teaching style is similar to his faculty peers at CHDS as he utilizes an informal lecture style and emphasizes learning through case studies.

"What I want students to take away is to think about challenges of security, resilience and the struggle of efficient security and cost effectiveness," he said. "It reframes homeland security discussion by pointing out regulatory reform tries to make infrastructure more lean and efficient. In some ways there is a really a tradeoff with security because it leads to reduction of redundancy."

Ellis comes to CHDS somewhat familiar with the terrain. He used the Homeland Security Digital Library as a student and has been a guest lecturer at the Center.

"I really enjoyed the back and forth with the students," he said. "The feedback from students who are engaged in homeland security was incredibly beneficial to my research. It seems like a really good fit. The students really attracted me to come here."

Before working at Stanford, Ellis served as a program manager at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) at the UC San Diego. Ryan received his M.A. in communication from the University of California, San Diego in 2005 and earned his B.A. in sociology and communication from Boston College in 2002.

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