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Kelsy Luengen

Dancing cyber criminologist

UQ

By day, Kelsy Luengen fights cybercrime. By night, she’s a sequinned superstar of salsa

Ever since she was very young, Kelsy Luengen has always loved to dance. It started with cheerleading in primary school, then Latin classes in high school. By the time she went to uni, Kelsy knew enough to teach. She now owns her own dance company and coaches competitors.

In 2020 she made her international teaching debut at a Hawaiian salsa conference, and has won several national championships.

But Kelsy started uni with a different dream in mind – she wanted to be a war correspondent. “I wanted to be an embedded journalist,” she says. “I was interested in peace and conflict and trying to understand modern warfare.”

After a few years of study, Kelsy realised that her chances of joining the troops on the frontline were pretty small, so she decided to add a criminology major to her arts degree. Kelsy also did an honours on policing truancy (something to think about if you’re tempted to wag school!) and then went to work for Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, where she became interested in cybercrime. “I was learning about trends in organised crime and the regulations around digital devices,” she says.

Encouraged to pursue her new passion, Kelsy’s honours supervisor suggested she turn it into a PhD. At the time, the University of Queensland (UQ) was launching a new cyber security course and was also looking for research students.

Kelsy is now halfway through her PhD, which looks at how people read and respond to phishing emails. “We’re identifying whether or not people can recognise a cyber threat. Using eye-tracking technology to see where they look and how long they look for,” Kelsy explains. “The technology also tracks heart rate and emotional response.”

In the future, Kelsy hopes to build education tools that will help people spot scam emails.  “It’s all about helping small businesses to be more cyber safe and aware,” she says.

She’ll also be spending more time with the other kind of fishing – her partner runs a crayfish farm where Kelsy helps out. And she says she’ll always find time for dance. “It helps keep me sane!”

Kelsy’s study and career pathway

Secure study ops!

Criminology gave Kelsy her start in cyber, but that’s not the only pathway at UQ. Cyber security is one of the five majors offered as part of the Bachelor of Computer Science. You can also combine the bachelor with a Master of Cyber Security as part of UQs vertical dual degree program. This pathway lets you complete two degrees in four years and gain a deep understanding of everything cyber. Cool!

This article is brought to you in partnership with the University of Queensland and originally appears in Careers with STEM: Technology 2021.

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