Illinois Graduate Student part of Group Representing United States during International Scientific Exchange
11/8/2023 3:24:17 PM
Last month, 3rd year Physics student Sarah Hagen took part in a one-week academic exchange hosted by the French Embassy. The exchange included 10 PhD students from the United States and eight students from France.
The topic of this year’s installation of the program – the first such event post-covid – was cybersecurity. Hagen’s application mentioned her ongoing research in quantum cryptography: “I knew that most participants would likely be studying classical cryptography. As a physicist, my background is not in this area, but I have been learning more about cryptography since transitioning to this sub-domain of quantum information theory in the first year of my PhD.”
As one of the U.S.-based doctoral students in the French-American Doctoral Exchange (FADEx) cohort, Hagen spent seven days traveling alongside her American and French peers across three cities in France: Nancy, Rennes, and Paris.
Nancy and Rennes are cities in the East and West of France, respectively. They are home to large universities and research laboratories, which work closely together. The researchers, some faculty, work in small teams, each led by a few senior scientists. “One of the benefits of this exchange was becoming more familiar with how research is structured in France,” said Hagen. “There, national research centers are often integrated with the universities, whereas in the U.S. we would make a distinction between university centers like IQUIST and national labs like Argonne or Oak Ridge.”
Both Nancy and Rennes are home to several research teams devoted to various topics in cybersecurity who presented their research as part of the program. Hagen noted how the choice of topics engaged all the students equally: “The various presentations together covered the breadth of research of the students in the French-American cohort. Among the approximately twenty students, there were always a couple students eager to engage with the speaker, leading to later discussions about future collaboration. I also had the pleasure of listening to a few talks covering topics in quantum and post-quantum cryptography.”
A majority of the program familiarized the participants with the larger ecosystem with which French researchers are in contact. In this context, the group visited Campus Cyber in Paris, which, according to its website, is “a flagship facility dedicated to cybersecurity that brings together the main national and international players in the field". Part of the program there included presentations by those driving science policy and funding for cryptography-related research, for example, by representatives of ANSSI, the National Cybersecurity Agency of France. At the prestigious École des Mines University, the FADEx cohort also spoke with Florent Kirchner, France’s coordinator for cyber strategy, in an informal setting; the conversation included a discussion of research and job prospects for French and American citizens in the field.
For Hagen, this trip has prompted new connections in the quantum cryptography field. “It has also given me a deeper understanding of the newest complementary research being conducted in classical cryptography, which allows me to put my own work into better perspective,” she says. This area of research is also closely integrated with the efforts of the Illinois branch of the Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN) collaboration, of which Hagen and her advisor, Eric Chitambar, are members.