Skip to content

Professor to Participate as Trusted CI Fellow

Tonya Davis
April 24, 2020

Cyber & social-psychological research

     A program coordinator for Alabama A&M University’s Graduate Psychology Program will participate in a nationally recognized initiative charged with expansion of her colleagues’ basic knowledge of cybersecurity and its importance to the scientific community.

     Dr. Tonya Davis, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work, Psychology and Counseling, has been selected as a Trusted CI (cyberinfrastructure) Fellow.  As one of only six such fellows each year, Davis will have access to training and resources from the National Science Foundation to enhance her professional development in the arena of cybersecurity.

    “I am thrilled to be selected for the Trusted CI Cybersecurity Fellowship program by the NSF Foundation Cybersecurity Center of Excellence,” said Davis.  “It will allow me to explore and conduct innovative research related to my two loves—psychology and technology.”  Davis added that “by understanding the relevance of social science in cybersecurity research,” she will be able to assist with “growing the social science discipline.”

     Dr. Davis’ current broad research interests include understanding how cyber interactions impact behavior.  Her specific areas of interest include psychological distortions and influence on privacy decision making; social engineering and culture; role of group dynamics in cybercrimes; and technology-infused mental health interventions.

     “I have always had an interest in understanding the cognitive variables involved in decision making processes,” stated Davis, tracing that enthusiasm to dissertation research on Cyberbullying. “Over the years my clinical work has focused on the infusion of technology into Mental Health Interventions. So, understanding the cognitive processes involved in how people make decisions in online environments was a natural progression.”

     She further stated in the clinical work, she noted “vulnerable clients who reported feeling shame, depression and other feelings after being taken advantage of in online environments.” This led her to wonder about the types of social engineering techniques that criminals deploy to commit Cybercrimes.”

     Fellows will receive basic cybersecurity training over a period of six months via weekly Zoom sessions.  By the end of the year, they will be expected to present or write a short white paper on the cybersecurity needs of their community and some initial steps they will take (or have taken) to address these needs.

     In 2018, Davis was among the principal investigators on a nearly $1 million NSF grant to study virtual mentoring among undergraduates at 10 historically black college and university campuses, including AAMU.

     The professor earned the B.S. degree from Auburn University; the M.S. degree from Alabama A&M University and received the Ph.D. degree from the University of Alabama.

     Davis’ diverse Trusted CI cohorts represent the University of Missouri, Texas A&M University, University of California Merced, University of Texas at Dallas and the Renaissance Computing Institute.

     “Through the Trusted CI NSF Cybersecurity of Excellence Fellows Program, my hope is that I will be able to learn about Cybersecurity infrastructures and proactively assist computer scientists and Information Technology professionals with building cyberinfrastructures undergirded by social-psychological research that protects against adversarial threats in real time,” said Dr. Davis.

     For additional information about Davis’ Trusted CI fellowship, contact her at