New Math + X Courses Offered in Spring 2016

May 25, 2016

In Fiscal Year 2014-2015, the Duke Mathematics Department and iiD solicited proposals for classes to be team taught by faculty members, one from Mathematics and one from a second Department. This RFP has led to new two courses that were this Spring semester.

Math + X course, named Cryptography and Society (MATH 165FS-01), is offered by Mathematics professor Dr. Lillian Pierce and guest lecturer Kimberley Brownlee (Associate Professor of Legal and Moral Philosophy, University of Warwick, UK). This course explored cryptography and its role in modern life. The course was originally assigned a classroom accommodating 19 students. Due to enthusiastic enrollment however, students filled a 45-seat classroom.

Students explored a variety of encryption systems, beginning with methods developed by the ancient Greeks, Persians and Romans, and working up to the modern encryption systems and methods that keep our digital files and communications safe today. Students also learned how to encrypt and decrypt data using quantitative methods, mathematical concepts from combinatorics, abstract algebra, graph theory, and elementary number theory. In the process, they discovered the strengths and weaknesses of encryption systems, including the role of human error, and how they apply to current digital security and privacy concerns.

Math + X course Information, Algorithms and Statistical Mechanics (MATH 690) is an interdisciplinary graduate course taught jointly by Jonathan Mattingly (Mathematics), Henry Pfister (Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Patrick Charbonneau (Chemistry). Students explored how powerful techniques from statistical physics can be used to solve problems in information theory and the analysis of computational algorithms.

To partially offset the cost of teaching replacement for the two Duke instructors who teach these courses, iiD has provided funds to the Mathematics Department for Dr. Lillian Pierce, and to the Chemistry Department for Dr. Patrick Charbonneau.