The University of Maryland, College Park will use a $1.1 million grant from defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. to establish a new honors concentration in cybersecurity, school officials announced Monday.

With the program, which will accept its first students for fall 2013, the university is attempting to gain a foothold in a growing discipline already taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Maryland is considered rich ground for cybersecurity training because of the presence of the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade and the plethora of government and private technology offices in the region.

The program, expected to graduate about 45 students a year, will bring together majors from computer science, engineering, business, public policy and the social sciences in both classes and residence halls. Courses will focus on everything from forensics to coding to cybersecurity law. Seniors will be expected to take a year-long course in which they apply all they have learned to solve a real-world cybersecurity problems.

Cybersecurity students will also be paired with industry and government mentors and will have the option to intern at Northrop Grumman.

Patrick O'Shea, the university's vice president for research, said his goal is "to produce a new generation of experts prepared to take on real-world cybersecurity challenges."

"These days, there is an immense shortage of cybersecurity experts," O'Shea said. "The demand is high, but as an academic discipline, cybersecurity lacks definition."

The hope, he said, is to develop a program that can serve as a model for others in Maryland and beyond.

College Park officials say the program will differ from those of its peers. It is designed for undergraduates (UMBC's program is for graduate students) and more than training students for particular jobs, it will encourage them to think creatively about the cybersecurity problems of the future.

University system Chancellor William E. Kirwan praised the effort, saying partnerships between universities and private companies are essential to producing more science and technology graduates, a statewide goal. Kirwan said such collaborations enable "us to tackle our nation's toughest workforce challenges."