Those looking to not only bolster their resumes but also make an impact on a nation-wide scale might be interested in the Center for Command, Control, Communications, Computing and Intelligence, otherwise known as the C4I Center.

Started in July 1989 by Dr. Harry Van Trees, the C4I Center, originally named the C3I since the computing component was not added until later, functions primarily as a research institute providing academic assistance to the U.S. military and other government agencies.

Van Trees graduated from the prestigious West Point Military Academy at the top of his class and worked a series of positions for the Department of Defense in addition to spending over a decade as an electrical engineering professor at M.I.T., so he had an extensive background in the military, government and technology that made him an ideal candidate to supervise the C4I Center.

“He understood that the military needed technological help that they could get from the university,” said Dr. Mark Pullen, C4I’s current director.  “He was convinced that Mason was a good place to the center because it’s close to military organizations and because of its innovative approach to information technology.”

Pullen, who runs one of the laboratories at the center in addition to his administrative role, took over after Van Trees retired in 2005.

Although it is incorporated in the Mason School of Engineering, the C4I Center is purely a research facility. The center proposes projects to government agencies that provide the funding and recruit people with the particular skill set and knowledge needed to complete the project.

Participants can include anyone from faculty members from the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering, students working on their theses and researchers who are hired specifically for certain projects.

One example of a project that the center is currently working on is DAGGRE, sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency or IARPA. The project’s goal is to design instruments that can predict what will happen in the future by using a process called crowd-sourcing, which involves the collective input of a large number of people from across the globe.

The C4I Center has a tremendous impact on society outside Mason.

“We believe we have a good reputation in the larger community,” Pullen said. “We work on projects for government sponsors where they have something they need to get done, and they need our expertise to get help. We are an intelligence community that collects and processes information for the Department of Defense as they look for ways to do the job better.”

However, the C4I Center also has a more direct benefit for Mason students. It provides work for graduate students looking to gain experience in the information technology field, and even undergraduates can help support the computers and labs.

One graduate student, Samuel Singapogu, who is currently studying for his PhD in computer science, joined the C4I Center after discovering it on the Internet.

He was attracted to many factors of the program, including its in-depth research in multiple areas like networking, modeling and geospatial analysis and its prominent, well-tested faculty. Not only did the center give him an invaluable educational experience, but he also saw his work being used for a larger purpose.

“My job at the C4I center helped me learn how to identify and articulate problems,” Samuel said. “I was used to questions and answers for tests but I did not know how  to look at a system and identify and articulate a technical problem. This has helped me even in my PhD program to read through research papers and identify problems. I have also learned how to approach a problem to solve it – to understand requirements, find necessary components, not re-invent the wheel and make things work.”