Senior Seminar Information (Class of 2021)

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the senior seminar topic is Cryptography and is tentatively scheduled for Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:40 to 4:00.

To ensure the senior seminar experience is an enriching experience it is necessary to keep class sizes relatively small and even. To help the department place students into seminars, each major who plans to take a senior seminar submits a proposal by NOON on the last day of classes of the winter semester of the junior year. Some details:

  1. The proposal is a LaTeX document, a template, to be filled out carefully by the student.  The proposal should be approximately one page.  It should describe which senior seminar you prefer to take, and why.

2. As a hypothetical example, here is a sample completed proposal in PDF formatas Bernhard
Riemann would have submitted it.

    • Juniors abroad during the winter semester who do not have access to LaTeX may submit a proposal created in Word or whatever software is available. The proposal must follow the format of the sample PDF document.
    • By noon on the due date, the completed proposal is to be emailed as a PDF document to two people: Deb Cutten (, Academic Administrative Assistant for Hathorn Hall, and Adriana Salerno (, Chair of the Mathematics Department.
    • The PDF file should have a useful, descriptive name. Riemann would’ve named his “BernhardRiemannSeminarProposal.pdf”, for example.
    • It is a good idea for juniors to discuss the choice between thesis and seminar with faculty members before writing a proposal.
    • The Department meets to consider all thesis and seminar proposals. The Department Chair will notify students of the results of the meeting by the middle of the short-term.
    • The course descriptions for the Winter 2020 senior seminars are below.


MATH 495H. Cryptography.

Public key cryptography is at the center of most secure transactions these days, from using a credit card online to sending and signing secure messages. The security of a cryptosystem relies on finding solutions to difficult math problems like factorization of large numbers and the discrete logarithm problem. After an introduction to the basics, each student studies various methods of encryption like the RSA cryptosystem, the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, Elliptic Curve Cryptography, and various methods of breaking these encryptions. These topics draw from previous knowledge in abstract algebra, analysis, geometry, and number theory. Computer algebra systems also are used to illustrate the applications. Prerequisite(s): MATH 301 and 309. Instructor permission is required. [W3] A. Salerno.