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News | Aug. 30, 2022

College Students from Research Outreach Programs Solve Hard Mission Problems, Present Findings to GEN Nakasone

FORT MEADE, Md. — College interns from the National Security Agency's (NSA) Director’s Summer Program (DSP) and Graduate Mathematics Program (GMP) recently briefed top Agency leaders on their work to address mission-critical problems in mathematics, cryptology, and computer science.

Seated in the front row was GEN Paul Nakasone, Commander, USCYBERCOM, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, listening intently to what the students had to say about their brief time at NSA.

“There are two things that define us at NSA: We make code, and we break code. Being able to see your collective work here this summer is remarkable,” said GEN Nakasone at the 27 July event. “Congratulations to you on an amazing summer.”

Students from both programs presented their work through technical talks and papers before showcasing their efforts to GEN Nakasone.

In addition to GEN Nakasone, the audience included NSA’s Research Deputy Director, Chief of Research Mathematics, Research’s Director of Math Hiring, several technical directors, and mentors.

The DSP is an NSA Research outreach effort to undergraduate mathematics majors. The 12-week program is highly competitive and brings together students from all over the country.

Similarly, the Graduate Mathematics Program provides a bridge to the United States’ academic and industrial math communities.

Students begin their internship by selecting a challenge from a small group of preselected problems, and spend time working on small teams with assistance from mentors or “problem supporters.”

The excitement of the students was palpable as they stood around the perimeter of the room waiting for GEN Nakasone and his party to arrive.

GEN Nakasone put students at ease by asking questions related to their perspectives, and what they felt they learned from their internships. One student explained he knew nothing about his particular topic — machine learning — prior to working the project at NSA.

“Wait,” GEN Nakasone said, good-naturedly ribbing the student. “You knew nothing? They don’t know about machine learning at your school?”

“I haven’t taken that class, yet, sir,” the smiling student replied, taking the Director’s teasing on the chin.

While students reported an increase in their overall confidence using the skills they were developing while in school, some students had the opportunities to learn new skills during their internship.

One student opined that they learned a new way of viewing a problem, and remarked on how helpful it was coming together to view the problems in a different way. Another student echoed that opinion by returning to NSA after an internship last year, which allowed him to be around individuals passionate about their work.

“I wanted that (experience), so I applied again, and here I am,” said the student.

“Thank you from everyone at the National Security Agency,” GEN Nakasone told the students. “I hope that you take your good experiences home to your family and friends and tell them what a great place this is to work.”

NSA hosts 20 full-time student programs across STEM, analytics, and business. Other student programs include: High School Work Study, summer internships, Cooperative Education, and Stokes Educational Scholarship, as well as Research Undergraduate Experiences.

If you are a student who is interested in participating in one of these programs, be sure to check out — which one is the right fit for you?