German Fulbright Scholar Works on U.S. Encryption Standard

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

Professor Christof Paar and Thomas J. Wollinger

WORCESTER, Mass. - Thomas J. Wollinger is the lead author of a research paper accepted for the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology conference in New York City. The high-profile conference aims to select the next federal encryption standard for computer security.

Wollinger is a Fulbright scholar at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, working with Christof Paar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and head of WPI's Cryptography and Information Security Group. A resident of Schoellkrippen, Germany, a village near Frankfurt, Wollinger arrived at WPI last August to study through May 2001.

Wollinger's Fulbright opportunity began when one of his college English professors handpicked him for the chance. The selection process for a Fulbright scholarship involves intense competition. He has since learned that Fulbright scholars often remain involved with the organization; he may one day serve on a panel to pick new Fulbright scholars.

Wollinger came to WPI because it has an outstanding cryptographic studies program.

"The challenge for me is that cryptography is like three sciences in one: electrical engineering, mathematics and computer science," he said. His work on the new encryption standard is a bonus that may have international impact.

"WPI will take part in this public process," said Christof Paar. "The whole world will be looking at New York in April because it is such a high-profile event."

Before coming to WPI, Wollinger attended the Fachhochschule in Dieburg, Germany, majoring in electrical engineering. He completed an apprenticeship at Deutsche Telekom in Frankfurt, an internship at National Avionics Ltd. and a senior thesis in data security at Secunet in Frankfurt. At WPI, he plans to earn a master of science degree in electrical and computer engineering, concentrating on cryptography.

For more than 50 years, the Fulbright Program has been recognized as the flagship in international education exchange. It is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Information Agency and participating governments and host institutions in the United States and abroad.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.