There is just one small step between protecting data and error correcting codes, and that is cryptology. Although this field has existed since ancient times, the public still knows little about it. Here, we offer you a glimpse of this lesser known field of mathematics, through the portrait of Marion Candau, a PhD student in cryptology in Brest, France. Thanks to her active presence on the web and on the MyScienceWork network, Marion was the winndr of last month’s iPad contest.
This article also exists in French ("Et la gagnante du concours Ipad est : Marion Candau, doctorante en cryptologie !"), translated by Timothée Froelich.
“People don’t know about cryptology, although they use it every day,” says Marion Candau, who has been studying this field since her master’s. With the goal of helping people discover this antique science, she has become very active on the web and, recently, got involved in scientific outreach. Her articles open the door to cryptology. She explains, in particular, what error correcting codes are. They are at the core of her own thesis, which she is carrying out right now in Brest at the Bretagne Atlantique Laboratory for Mathematics and the Laboratory for Information, Communication, and Knowledge Sciences and Techniques.
“Cryptology has always existed” Marion Candau
The word “cryptology” comes from the ancient Greek kruptos (hidden) and logos (science), and refers to a coding technique used by humans since ancient times. “Even if this involves complex mathematics, cryptology is based on simple and accessible concepts,” explains Marion Candau. It aims at protecting transmitted information and maintaining an accurate electronic signature. Error correcting codes can be used to complement this. They correct the transmission errors on the channels, that is, on the cable used, the Wi-Fi connection or the fiber optic network. These are the tools that Marion studies in her PhD research, entitled “Non-commutative convolutional error correcting codes”. The objective of her research is to determine a code that is able to protect the information without adding extra elements and, at the same time, maintain the initial error correcting function.
In the past, coded messages were engraved on jars or any other surface. Nebuchadnezzar, King of ancient Babylon, even wrote messages on the shaven heads of his slaves and sent them to their recipient once their hair had grown back. Today, cryptology is involved in various fields, for digital communication, for credit card transactions, or even inside your television set. Indeed, some channels are encrypted. “If you don’t subscribe to a cable channel, you can’t watch anything. Here we find cryptology again,” explains Marion. Today, various methods exist. Among them, the hash function, which makes it possible “not to store raw passwords” on the internet, and so, to limit piracy. There is also the encryption system that encodes a message through an alphabetic mismatch on the text.
Science2.0: blogs, social networks, and the web
In order to make others aware of her research field, Marion takes advantage of her writing skills for articles explaining cryptology. One of these articles, which she submitted to us, is dedicated to error correcting codes, and will soon be published on MyScienceWork.
Furthermore, this mathematician is very active on the web and social networks, “out of curiosity, to follow the news, to stay connected. Having good visibility can also be a springboard for the professional career,” she says. As a matter of fact, she plans to work in the private sector, once she has defended her thesis. Her personal page is a very good example of what can be achieved on the internet: her profile and skills are easily accessible. According to Marion, the web offers a good way to “communicate with other PhD students, other scientists”. She also has something to say about our web series Knock Knock Doc, which is devoted to presenting the PhD candidates: “It shows the PhD student in a new way, it’s nice and offbeat.” In general, the web is a good way to reduce the kind of isolation that can appear during a PhD.
The MyScienceWork team is delighted to award the iPad contest prize to Marion. When the winner was drawn, we were pleasantly surprised to learn about this young PhD student, so active and dynamic on the net. But when you think about it, was all of this just down to chance? Remember our article on PhD students who are active on blogs and social networks. The purpose of this contest matches what MyScienceWork stands for every day: by being active and sharing your expertise, you can enhance your visibility and give yourself the best possible odds.