The Awards Committee of the Bethel College Alumni Association has named Susan Loepp, Williamstown, Mass., as the winner of the 2007 Young Alumnus Award.
Loepp is an associate professor of mathematics at Williams College, where she has been since 1996. Her field of research is commutative algebra and she often teaches courses in abstract algebra at Williams.
Loepp is a 1989 Bethel graduate with a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in physics. She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994, where her dissertation topic was “Making the generic formal fiber local.” She was a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska from 1994-96.
Loepp is the author of a number of articles published in the “Journal of Algebra,” the “Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra” and the “Rocky Mountain Journal of Algebra,” among others. In 2006, she published her first book, a collaborative effort with fellow Williams College professor William Wootters, a physicist.
“Protecting Information: From Classical Error Correction to Quantum Cryptography” (Cambridge University Press) is intended as a text for undergraduate students as well as an introduction to mathematical strategies used to ensure faithful transmission of information through “noisy” channels such as a scratch on a CD.
Information may be intercepted by an identity thief or corrupted by sources of noise such as that scratch on the CD. Because of this, communications are often protected by mathematical codes designed to compensate for the noise or foil a potential eavesdropper. However, an eavesdropper of the future might have access to a “quantum computer” that could crack many of the codes currently in use.
The book grew in part out of a course that Loepp and Wootters teach together. It was also enabled in part by an $85,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2000-02, under which Loepp and Wootters developed an interdisciplinary course for undergraduates on protecting information.
Loepp has also been the recipient of funds from two other substantial NSF grants, 1999-2000 and 1999-2004 (the latter as part of a research project with six others). Awards that have recognized her teaching abilities include Dodd Teaching Excellence Awards from the University of Texas at Austin 1989-91, 1992 and 1993 and a Department of Mathematics Teaching Excellence Award from UT in 1992. The Williams College student body presented Loepp with the Faculty of the Year Award in 2001. While she was at Bethel, Loepp, a tennis player, received Academic All-American honors from the NAIA in 1988 and 1989.
Loepp will be on campus to receive her award and present a special convocation on Friday, March 9. She will speak on “Protecting Your Personal Information: An Introduction to Encryption.” The 11 a.m. lecture, in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center, is free and open to the public.