Rutgers Math Department Ph.D. student, Tamar Lichter Blanks has been named as the 2021 Mass Media Fellow, of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) as part of the broader Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship program organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This program aims to improve public understanding of science and technology by placing advanced undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate science, mathematics, and engineering students in media outlets nationwide. She will spend 10 weeks this summer as a writer for The Conversation, a news organization that publishes articles penned by academic experts and edited by journalists.
Tamar is a PhD candidate in the Mathematics Department. Her research is in abstract algebra, which is a branch of mathematics that is about understanding symmetry and structure. She first became involved in science communication as an undergraduate student at CUNY Queens College, where she wrote a “Math in Plain English” column for a school publication called QC Voices. “I am passionate about sharing the conceptual side of math – which is really a jumble of puzzles, patterns, and logical thinking – and about helping people feel welcome in math and science in general.”
Tamar arrived at Rutgers in 2017. She is a recipient of the highly competitive Presidential Fellowship from Rutgers University’s Office of the Chancellor. Presidential Fellowships are used to recruit Rutgers University’s most outstanding graduate student candidates. Only a limited number are offered each year and students go through a rigorous selection process. Shortly after her arrival, her academic prowess and commitment to strengthening the vitality of the US science and engineering enterprise was recognized by a prestigious three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Her previous faculty mentor, Steve Miller praised Tamar effusively, sharing that they recently wrote a paper together which was accepted to the international Post-Quantum Crytography conference, which is being held in South Korea. Her presentation, “Generating Cryptographically-Strong Random Lattice Bases and Recognizing Rotations of Z^n” is based on the paper. This conference addresses the concern of post-quantum cryptography rendering our existing privacy and encryption protections useless and focuses on techniques that will withstand this feared development.
Outside of the academic realm, Tamar’s desire to help others feel welcome in math is evidenced through her involvement in the Mathematics Graduate Student-Faculty Liaison Committee, which coordinates and runs the open house for recruitment, welcoming the class of entering new students. She is actively involved with coordinating activities with the Ph.D. students and policies that impact them. Tamar has also continued to do math outreach to students at Midreshet Shalhevet High School, some of whom have gone on to do summer projects with Rutgers mathematics faculty.