Clemson awarded $2.1 million for research in mathematics for data security

A team of Clemson University mathematical sciences professors was awarded $2.1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance teaching and research in mathematical areas critical to the privacy and security of computer communications.

The NSF Research Training Groups grant will support research training for undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists in coding theory, cryptography and number theory; areas that are essential to advanced encryption algorithms – the process of creating coded data that can only be read by authorized parties.

Data encryption goes beyond safely sending credit card information to an online retailer according to Clemson mathematical sciences professor Kevin James. The next frontier is in finding ways to keep cloud-based data safe from prying eyes not only while in transit but also from the people running the systems storing the data.

“One of the goals of this grant is to build the infrastructure necessary to train more researchers and to continue pushing research forward in cloud data security,” James said.

Researchers intend to use theoretical mathematics, including algebra and number theory, to develop this infrastructure. Moreover, the team will pursue basic research in anticipation of its future applications.

The grant will support two postdoctoral researchers for three years each as well as the creation of a multi-faceted undergraduate research program. The research team will also create a program to introduce coding theory, cryptography and number theory to students from historically black colleges and universities and small colleges throughout the Southeast. Graduate students will design and direct a graduate school entrance exam preparation course.

“We want to give students a glimpse of the really exciting things that are happening in mathematics beyond their first or second year math classes,” James said.

The research team includes Jim Brown (PI), Shuhong Gao, Kevin James, Felice Manganiello, and Gretchen Matthews, all professors in Clemson’s Department of Mathematical Sciences.

“Our ability to secure this grant is a testament to the depth and breadth of the Clemson mathematical sciences faculty working in this research field,” said interim department chair Chris Cox.

The Clemson Research Training Group will host University of Wisconsin mathematics and engineering professor Nigel Boston Sept. 26- 30 as part of its lecture series. Boston is an expert in algebraic number theory, group theory, arithmetic geometry, computational algebra, coding theory, cryptography, and other applications of algebra to electrical engineering.


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