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Southeast Missouri State University senior Jeff Overbey has already accomplished what many students only dream of doing.
Along with mathematics faculty member Dr. Jerzy Wodjylo, he has created and published in the mathematical journal, Cryptologia, a formula for finding the number of invertible matrices in the Hill cipher. The formula, which took Overbey and Wodjylo nearly a year to develop, gives cryptologists a way to measure the security of the Hill cipher. Overbey credits Wodjylo, who thought of the idea while preparing materials for a cryptology class, for advising him and first suggesting the project. Knowing that participation in research was fundamental to gaining admission to graduate school, Overbey was glad to join the venture.
Overbey’s breakthrough, along with his robust academic record and strong recommendations from Southeast faculty members, helped him earn a place on the Third Team of USA TODAY’s 2004 All-USA College Academic Team Program. Overbey is in excellent company in this program, as his teammates come from some of the most prestigious schools and universities in the United States, including The United States Naval Academy, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford universities.
The discovery and publication of this formula have also provided an excellent boost to Overbey’s applications to graduate school programs. He plans to accept a teaching assistantship at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and continue his studies in theoretical computer science and programming language there, as well as other research interests. Overbey was also accepted to Purdue University and says that Champaign-Urbana will present an interesting and wonderful academic challenge.
In addition to his interests in mathematics and computer science, Overbey is also a dedicated pianist and enjoys composing music as well. He has played piano since the age of nine and says that the piano allows him to balance the kind of thinking required to study mathematics with the mindset needed to be creative and expressive in music.
When asked what sparked his interest in cryptology, Overbey replied that he became interested in the subject in college when, to his delight, he discovered that cryptology was “math without numbers!”