In this post I hinted that there was a summer project potentially on my plate that was not certain yet, but which would be a relatively big deal if it came through. I’m happy to say that this project is now a “go”. That project is my participation in the 2007 Reconnect Coneference, sponsored by the Homeland Security Center for Dynamic Data Analysis (DyDAn) at Rutgers University. The conference is titled “Data Analysis in Law Enforcement and Homeland Security” and is a six-day intensive short course in the mathematics and computing behind this topic. The goal of the conference is to “reconnect” teaching faculty at colleges and universities with research in the mathematical sciences. The conference, unlike most conferences, had a competitive entry requirement that involved an application and letters of recommendation, and I’m gratified to have gotten in.
I was intrigued by this opportunity when it first was announced for several reasons. First, I’ve been wanting to find ways to get back in to the research side of mathematics. I left my work in algebraic topology and generalized homology theory behind back in 1998 when I published my dissertation and never looked back. My current area of scholarship is cryptology, and I did publish a paper in Cryptologia last year — the first publication of research I’ve had since that 1998 paper — but I’ve come to realize that bootstrapping oneself to do research in a new area is a lot of work, and I could use something external to get me going. And since I have zero intention of returning to graduate school in this life or any other, this conference seems to fit the bill.
Second, my limited work in cryptology — particularly in my development of liberal arts curricula for teaching cryptology — has gotten me involved at various times with both people and issues in law enforcement and homeland security. It’s a very interesting — and complicated — area of study and I’m fascinated that mathematical ideas can have such repercussions. The topics in this conference are not cryptological in nature, but I think it’ll make a nice complement to what I already know in crypto.
Third, the topics themselves — although I know nothing about them — look fascinating. Going by the reading list, and from what I’ve skimmed online from those books, dynamic data analysis has a lot to do with machine recognition of language, which gets into fields such as artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. Those are areas where I have some middling layperson’s knowledge, but I’ve always wanted to learn more.
I have the books on order right now, and as soon as the semester is over I’ll be diving in. I do plan to process what I am learning for the conference online somehow. I might blog about it here; I’ve contemplated setting up another WordPress.com blog for it; and I’ve contemplated setting up a wiki. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do anything like that, but I think there’s value in publishing my notes as I work and having people smarter than I am comment on them.
So this is an exciting opportunity, and I look forward to sharing once I get started. (But first… one more week of class and then final exams.)