Alumna Loop credits master’s in cybersecurity with opening doors

Alumna Marie Loop will share her work in cybersecurity and intelligence at the Sever Toast May 13 in Holmes Lounge

Beth Miller 

Despite working as an intelligence analyst for more than a decade for the U.S. Secret Service and the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Marie Loop realized there was a hole in her resume — cybersecurity.

She filled that hole in December 2018 with a master's in cybersecurity management from the Henry Edwin Sever Institute in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, which led to her current role as global protective intelligence manager for Facebook, a job she says she wouldn't have gotten without the degree. Loop will be discussing her career and the impact of the degree at the Sever Toast at 6 p.m. May 13 in Holmes Lounge. Alumni, faculty, staff and guests are welcome.

Prior to starting the cybersecurity master's program, Loop already had earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from George Washington University, an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, and a master of science in security studies from University College London (UCL). But searching for a job in St. Louis after leaving New York City, where she had been an intelligence research specialist with the NYPD, revealed that gap in cybersecurity. She took on the cybersecurity master's program full-time.

"It is a really fantastic opportunity to be open-minded," she said. "The professors aren't just professors — they are leading professionals in the cybersecurity industry, and to be able to be taught by someone actually doing it is rare. Being able to learn from them, get to know them, develop relationships with them, ask them for advice, have them help form ideas and paths with you — the ability to be open-minded and cultivate relationships with fellow classmates and professors is one of the most valuable pieces of the program."

At Facebook, Loop is responsible for managing a regional protective intelligence team that handles any threats toward company executives.

"We look at all realms of threat, from travel and event support, geopolitical issues and how they will relate to those executives, and really focus on the mission of the overall security team — protecting people, assets and reputation," Loop said.

Her work at Facebook is related to her previous roles in government intelligence, an area that has been her focus since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Although she was a sophomore in high school at the time, Loop knew then she wanted a career in security. As a high school senior, she took an unpaid internship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and while a student at George Washington University, she took an internship then a paid position with the Secret Service, where she worked for several years after she graduated.

"I got a great foundation in everything from threat assessment to investigation to subject profiling," she said.

Subject profiling is a particular area of interest for Loop.

"One of the things that I've always looked at is how people operate, communicate and exist in a work environment and how similarly those personalities and situations happen," she said. "A lot of industrial organizational psychology practices can be applied to threat assessment and understanding why people do those things."

While earning a master's at UCL, she got more of a global perspective on security and learned how the world looked at various events, including 9/11. She got very interested in networks of attackers and focused on the networks of the "lone wolf" attacker, the group network, and a joint network. Through her analysis, she found the gaps where the attackers slipped through law enforcement and intelligence awareness.

For her thesis for the McKelvey Engineering cybersecurity program, she collected research on mass shooters in the U.S. between 1999-2018 and analyzed whether the shooter had vented about his or her attack online prior to carrying it out. While this work can be discouraging, Loop knows it is necessary for change.

"Whether within government or corporations, it takes all of us working together and understanding ways to prevent this type of atrocity anywhere we can and the spread of it," she said.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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