An ASU grad’s love of math leads to a career in cybersecurity
On LinkedIn, Hardy had seen several internship offers posted by MITER. She applied for the data science internship, thinking she wouldn’t get the cybersecurity one since it wasn’t her major. Then her CV was sent to the cyber department, who invited her for an interview. She passed a three-hour technical interview, divided into cryptography, programming and cybersecurity. The investigative team was very interested in learning more about Hardy’s thought process. Shortly after the interview, he was offered the cybersecurity internship.
She interned with the company last summer and has remained there ever since, accepting a full-time offer in September. She works on protocol design and development and programs some of the post-quantum cryptographic algorithms in Cryptol, a coding language specifically designed for cryptography.
Associate Professor Nancy Childress led Hardy’s master’s committee and also served as his undergraduate thesis advisor.
“Cryptology is a great fit for Lauren – she has expertise in the theoretical underpinnings of cryptosystems, as well as the practical issues of implementation. She seems equally competent and enthusiastic in both aspects of the subject, as evidenced by her specialized dissertation project and internship. She has good ideas, is not intimidated by complex concepts and takes on any challenge with energy. I really enjoyed working with her – and I’m excited to see where her talents will take her in her career,” Childress said.
Hardy faced many challenges during his childhood. Her parents divorced when she was in fourth grade. She grew up mainly in a single-parent family, seeing her father every other weekend. His mother was physically disabled and also had cancer when Hardy was 6 years old. Having insurance was a necessity.
“The only way my mom could get insurance after the divorce was from the government, and to keep government insurance — which was kind of the only option available — we had to stay poor,” Hardy said. “Luckily, ASU offered me a full Obama scholarship, covering not only tuition but also room and board, so the decision to attend was easy.”
As a young woman majoring in math, Hardy is part of a historically underserved group in the math community. She took a few classes at ASU where she was the only woman in the room.
“In a way, it’s intimidating,” Hardy said. “However, most of the time I think it gives me more power – I know I’m good at it and can stand up to any man in any of my classes. I work tough and I’m doing pretty well.”
We asked Hardy to share more about his experiences as Sun Devil.
Question: What do you enjoy most about math (and your area of concentration)?
Answer: I love how math makes sense of the world. There is so much order and beauty hidden throughout the universe, and mathematics allows us to discover more and more of it. I major in cryptography, and I love how it’s the intersection of math and computers, and how it applies to almost everything we do technologically (although very little the know).
Q: What did you learn at ASU – in class or otherwise – that surprised you, that changed your point of view?
A: It’s easy to look back and see how much I’ve accomplished. But, reflecting on the past few days, I learned that it wasn’t all about me. I’ve had an amazing support system over the past four years that has brought me joy and laughter amidst all the school stress. I learned that there are many people who love me, support me and encourage me.
Q: Do you think your training at ASU prepared you well to continue your career?
A: Yes. Very few know the mathematical side of cybersecurity. Few schools have a math-based cryptography course like ASU does.
Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?
A: Nancy Childress has taught me many lessons over the years. She was my instructor for about six or seven classes, and she was my undergraduate thesis supervisor and head of my master’s committee.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?
A: Make sure you specialize in what you love. You have to choose something that you love so much that even when you really hate it, there’s still a little part of you that finds joy in it. College isn’t easy and there will be classes you’ll have to take that you’ll hate, but choosing the right major for you certainly helps.
Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?
A: Whether it’s just arithmetic, algebra or geometry. There are many more.
Q: What was your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends, or just think about life?
A: The grassy area behind the graduate college building. It tends to be less crowded and shaded.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time for fun?
A: Board games, puzzles, cooking, outings with friends.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Hmm, I would probably have to do a lot of research to figure out the best possible solution. But from now on, I’d say probably improve the government-run systems that provide help and support to those who need it.
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