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Friday, 01 July 2011 16:15

Math Student Snags Prestigious NSA Internship

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Glancing around the interviewee waiting room in Washington D.C., Baker mathematics major Will Duncan couldn't help but wonder how he stacked up.

Students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State and several other prominent research institutions lined the room, nervously waiting for their chance to prove to the National Security Agency that they were more qualified than the other 900 applicants for its prestigious Director’s Summer Program.

An operational and human resources interview, polygraph test and extensive background check later, Duncan learned that he not only competed with these scholars, but also surpassed them. The Baker senior learned in late March that he had been selected to the intense 12-week program, and he left for Fort Meade, Md., after he finished his finals in May. The NSA website pegs those chosen for the program as “the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate mathematics majors.”

“I really appreciate my professors’ willingness to help me apply and hone my skills,” Duncan said. “I’m not nervous about the internship because of the quality of the faculty here.”

Chief among those mentors is Kelly Flaherty, assistant professor of mathematics, who has been working with Duncan on an upper-level cryptography independent study.

“Will’s placement in this program is a huge accomplishment for our entire department,” she said. “His work is so impressive. When we talk about the best of the best at Baker, Will is who we’re talking about.”

Duncan’s responsibilities this summer will be project based and will test his skills in modern cryptologic mathematics and algorithms.

“I love the objectivity that comes with mathematics,” he said. “I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I reached an answer.”

Slated to graduate in May 2012 as a triple major—math, international studies and music—Duncan plans to obtain an advanced degree in mathematics or conflict management. If he decides on the decidedly more subjective field, Duncan said he would love to pursue peace studies and implement some of the knowledge he gained studying other cultures at Harlaxton College to make the world a better place.

Read 13592 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 16:15

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