Claire Tomesch (S'07)-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Math major, Science and Humanities Scholar, Department of Homeland Security scholarship recipient

Using math to contribute to Homeland Security

photo of Claire TomeschClaire Tomesch's love for math and physics may someday help someone crack the code of an encrypted electronic message between Al-Qeada operatives, diffusing a terrorist attack and saving the lives of thousands of Americans. Tomesch, who received a prestigious 2005 Department of Homeland Security scholarship, spent the summer between her junior and senior year interning at Pacific Northwest National Labs in Richland, Wash., where she worked on a project involving image signal processing and nonlinear wave analysis - methods used to process electronic data and information.

Tomesch, one of 130 students to receive a 2005 scholarship or fellowship from an applicant pool of nearly 700, said she heard about the program through the Mathematical Sciences Department. She said the in-depth application, which took her a couple of weeks to complete, included several essays and a personal statement.

"My essays were about how I could use my work in mathematics to contribute to homeland security. I wrote about the advances in quantum cryptography that could come about as a result of its connection with areas of pure mathematics, and new cryptographic schemes based on the braid group.

"To me, mathematics is a game played with the structures and symmetries of logical thought - a game which I very much enjoy playing. It is this lively approach to problem solving that I look forward to applying this summer," said Tomesch, who plays the violin in Carnegie Mellon's All University Orchestra.

After completing her internship, Tomesch earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in math and while she considered working with the DHS following graduation, she opted instead to pursue a Ph.D.

Excerpted from Bruce Gerson's Homeland Security Career May Be in the Cards for Math Major.