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Student Spotlight: Aidan Benderly

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In Fall 2016, Aidan Benderly (‘20) entered Prince Frederick Hall already knowing what he wanted his future to look like. 

Coming from an engineering-focused high school in Metuchen, New Jersey, Benderly had his sights set on a degree in Electrical Engineering, a choice he’s grateful for, even four years in the future. 

“I didn’t want to take a bunch of intro-level programming classes, which is why I chose electrical engineering,” said Benderly. “But now looking back at it, I think I definitely made a good choice because, on the electrical engineering side, you get a much broader view of how computing works.” 

Nevertheless, though he was set to pursue the degree he had always wanted, he kept an open mind when it came to getting involved outside of class. 

Eventually, Benderly joined the ACES Competition Team, another choice that he felt changed the course of his undergraduate education. 

“From a cyber perspective, most of the useful material I got out of the first 2 years was through the competition team. A lot of the classes you take are basic and foundational knowledge,” he said. “The competition team helps you to say, ‘Yes, I have cyber skills.’”

Now, Benderly is one of the leaders of the ACES Competition Team, helping both his teammates and incoming freshman learn hands-on, offensive cybersecurity skills, such as Capture the Flag techniques.

He uses this leadership opportunity, as well as other activities offered to him through the program, to complement the upper-level coursework he is taking as part of the ACES Minor. 

Looking back on his time in the ACES LLP and Minor, Benderly offered some advice for underclassmen: “Take all the opportunities that are given to you. ACES provides so many awesome and wonderful opportunities to advance your career either within cyber or outside of cyber: the things that you’re going to learn in the competition team or in your classes and the people you meet through the different partner events or through Cybersecurity Connect. It’s all there for you and if you say, “Yes, I want to do this,” you’re golden.”

He also noted that, though there can be pressure to tie ACES curriculum to a certain major, freshmen should follow their research interests instead of succumbing to what they might think will help them the most. The minor and honors citation are perhaps more interdisciplinary than meets the eye. 

”The ACES Minor isn’t explicitly tied to any major,” Benderly noted. “I wouldn’t say generally that just being a computer science major makes you more apt or more ready to do cybersecurity stuff than an electrical engineering major because the topics that they cover are related but disjointed.”

Though he is currently an intern with ACES Corporate Partner Talos Intelligence Group, Benderly does sometimes step outside of the world of cyber. On campus, he plays tuba in the Mighty Sound of Maryland, UMD’s marching band. Additionally, he scuba dives and has fenced at the national level. 

ACES Competition Team meets Wednesday nights from 6:45pm - 8:30pm in Prince Frederick Hall rooms 1111 and 0103.

Published September 24, 2019