Oglethorpe University mathematics major Zoe Nelson ’20 was among only five undergraduates who participated in Clemson University’s five-week intensive summer program, “preliminary Research Experience for Undergraduates” (pREU), focused on code-based cryptography.
The team of budding mathematicians, led by Clemson’s Dr. Gretchen Matthews and assisted by Ph.D. student Rutuja Kshirsagar, studied finite fields, curves and other algebraic structures. They applied this knowledge to define a family of codes based on Hermitian curves that meet the indistinguishability criteria for use in a code-based cryptosystem. These cryptosystems are known for their resiliency to quantum algorithms, making them possible candidates for secure communication when large-scale quantum computers become available.
The pREU program is funded by a National Science Foundation grant awarded in 2016 to a cohort of five mathematical sciences professors at Clemson. The NSF Research Training Groups (RTG) grants support efforts to improve research training by involving undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral associates and faculty members in structured research groups centered on a common research theme. The RTG assigned to Clemson focuses on Coding Theory, Cryptography and Number Theory.
The long-range goal of the RTG program is to strengthen the nation’s scientific competitiveness by increasing the number of well-prepared U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents who pursue careers in the mathematical sciences.