Jed Crandall

University of New Mexico Assistant Professor Jed Crandall recently became the second recipient of the Qforma Lectureship Award. Crandall teaches and conducts research regarding privacy and security for personal computers. He landed at UNM because of his love for the southwest and the Department of Computer Science's reputation. UNM's Computer Science Department has "interesting and innovative research often crossing interdisciplinary boundaries," says Crandall.

This semester Crandall is teaching "Introduction to Cybersecurity", reviewing traditional security ideas, network security, privacy, Internet censorship and cryptography. Crandall's teaching style is more "hands on" than the traditional lecture. "Instead, I try to do lab assignments and then challenge the students to teach me something.  The best way for students to learn is through experience," says JCrandall.

One example of such a lab assignment is recounted below in Crandall's own words.

Last year, he said he gave the students an assignment that didn't preclude ‘cheating' in the instructions.

"The first part was to flip a coin 100 times and write down 0 for heads and 1 for tails. The second part was to find addresses for 190 random restaurants in Albuquerque and write down the last digit of the restaurant's address.  While I made it clear that the students wouldn't be ‘bad people' if they made the numbers up without doing all the hard work, the majority of the class actually did flip a coin and look up restaurants.  I think they thought I was going to tell them what kind of coin they had and what kind of food they liked.

"What we did with the data instead was to use hypothesis testing and other statistical methods to find the ‘cheaters' in the class. There were probably about half a dozen students who just sat down and wrote one hundred 0′s and 1′s as randomly as they could without actually flipping a coin and then did the same for the restaurant addresses, at random choosing 1 through 9, 190 times.

"This was perfectly okay given how I specified the assignment. Using properties analogous to Benford's law, we were able to find which data sets were made up.  I'm really fascinated that data can be analyzed in that way."

The Lectureship Award is an ongoing Qforma endeavor. "Qforma takes pride in sponsoring these talented individuals like Jed and his students at the University of New Mexico where they combine creativity and a passion for science to develop innovative solutions to real life challenges" says Roger Jones, Chairman, COO and CSO of Qforma.

This fits in with Crandall's future vision, "to run a program where UNM students can get involved in working on real problems for human rights organizations and other non-profits that are under attack. I envision that students would gain a lot of practical skills that could be applied in any sector."

Story by Eric Swanson

Reprinted from QForma with permission.