November 2015 – Yeo Sze Ling

How challenging is your work?

One of the goals of my current work is to try to solve some mathematical problems which have a direct impact on ensuring that your private and personal data (like passwords, financial records, etc) are kept safe. These problems are well-known to be hard to solve but any breakthrough will be very impactful. An example of such a problem can be as simple as follows:

“Find a factor of 11879225977.”

Apart from a good foundation in math, finding little breakthroughs in solving such problems requires a lot of focus, perseverance, creativity and a willing mind to keep learning. It is no doubt very challenging as they are very hard problems to solve. Nonetheless, I find that such challenges keep my mind active and allow me to learn new things all the time.

Why did you choose your work? Why Mathematics?

I enjoy Mathematics as I derive much satisfaction to find solutions to abstract problems. My current job is a good fit for me as it allows me to continue to learn new mathematical skills and more importantly, to apply my skills to solve real world problems.

How advanced is the level of Mathematics in your work?

The level of math involved in Cryptography ranges from more basic fields such as probability, handling binary operations and elementary number theory to more advanced areas like abstract algebra and algebraic geometry. In short, upper secondary school students who enjoy math should be able to understand the basic math used in cryptography while at the same time, well-known Mathematicians are still working on many of the Mathematical problems involved.

Is your job fun?

Haha! Research can be boring especially when you are at a loss of new ideas to work on and when no new results are obtained. However, to me, it can be very fun too if you enjoy learning and have the desire to seek for solutions to solve practical problems.

Did you like STEM from a very young age?

Mathematics has always intrigued me even as a young girl. I feel that my understanding of mathematical concepts helps me to appreciate many other subjects such as physics and economics better.

Who do you work with?

In my work, I work in a team comprising computer scientists and engineers.

Do you work with other elements, like Science or Technology or Engineering, in your work?

The main goal of cryptography is to help secure communications through all kinds of technological devices including the internet, smart phones, sensors, etc. Hence, keeping abreast with technological advances is highly necessary in my area of work.