Not many middle school students spend their free time at the local public library teaching children how to read, but then again, John Sousa wasn’t your typical sixth grader. By the time he left Deerfield Beach Middle School, he had already completed all of his high school classes online. It was the same story again at Commencement on April 30th.
Sousa, 17, graduated from Florida Atlantic University on Thursday with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavior magna cum laude. He will have a college degree before he even graduates from FAU High School on Thursday May 7.
After finishing his high school classes by eighth grade, he knew he needed a high school with an unusual curriculum, and that’s how he ended up at FAU High.
“It really gives students several opportunities at a younger age,” he said. “All of us have a lot in common. It’s a collegiate environment and it fosters camaraderie.”
In the fall of 2012, Sousa began taking psychology classes at FAU because he had always been fascinated by human behavior. The classes sparked an interest in biology and neuroscience, and eventually led him to research.
“Research really taps into both the intellectual creativity and the analytical side of me,” he explained. “I love being able to contribute to scientific knowledge.”
Sousa spent his time in the lab researching the effects of drugs and the physiology of the brain. He was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine and his findings will be presented at the upcoming Pediatric Academics Society meeting in San Diego.
Sousa plans to become a physician researcher and use his findings to advance the field of medicine.
Geosciences major Carly Wagner participated in a unique study abroad research project that was part of a pilot Civil Engineering/Geosciences Distinction Through Discovery (DTD) grant led by Drs. Dan Meeroff, Pete Scarlatos and Charles Roberts. The DTD grant's focus is to incorporate undergraduate research into the curriculum for courses including geomatics engineering, civil engineering, geology, and geography as well as to teach students how to conduct undergraduate research. Part of the program requires an intensive industry‐mentored or peer‐mentored undergraduate research project. In preparation for the trip, Carly spent the spring semester taking courses that taught her how to conduct research.
While spending the summer working under the direction of Dr. Charles Roberts and Ph.D. student Donna Selch, Carly measured salinity levels in the canals of Venice, Italy. The group collected this baseline data prior to the implementation of Project MOSE, a project intended to protect Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding, or "aqua alta". Once Project MOSE is implemented, researchers will be able to go back to measure salinity levels from the same areas to determine if the project accomplished the goal of restricting salt water into the city and lagoon.
Upon her return to FAU, Carly produced and presented a poster based on her research at the South Florida GIS EXPO and won second place.
"This experience made me realize I like research more than I thought I would," said Carly. "I can see myself turning this into a career, possibly working with water, or in the oil industry or even dealing with fracking."
Fourth year Ph.D. student Brandon Langenberg is using math like it's a super hero power. If he does his job well, the world as we know it will stay safe. If he fails, the bad guys could take over.
Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but the research Brandon is working on is vitally important for keeping tomorrow's communication networks secure. Brandon and a team of graduate students from the Mathematical Sciences Department and the Department of Computer & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science form the student core of the Center for Cryptology and Information Security. Through this Center, FAU is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Research for academic years 2014-2019 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency (NSA).
Cryptology is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adversarial third parties. In today's world, virtually every on-line transaction is a message that needs to be protected through cryptography. Brandon is working under advisor Dr. Rainer Steinwandt, director of the Center for Cryptology and Information Security, studying quantum cryptanalysis and post-quantum cryptology.
"Data encryption and security is a huge and growing field today," says Steinwandt, who is also co-editor of the Journal of Mathematical Cryptology. "New and existing companies alike rely on cryptography to protect their sensitive data; they do that with algorithms and "keys" developed by cryptologists using mathematics."
Brandon came to FAU after doing his Masters in Mathematics at Texas State University specifically because FAU is an NSA-designated school. When he arrived at FAU, he helped establish the College of Science Graduate Association (CGSA) in 2012. The CGSA provides event programming for graduate students at the College of Science. He is also currently serving as the College of Science's representative on the university-wide Graduate and Professional Student Association.
"When I came here, I got involved because I wanted to feel like I was at home," said Brandon. "Through the CGSA, we've created a group that not only provides important programming for the students, but also a sense of camaraderie for the members. And the GPSA does that on an even larger scale."
When he graduates, Brandon sees himself working in industry or government helping to keep information safe. So, "superhero" might just be an accurate job description after all.