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COSAM Undergraduate Student Interns at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Published: 09/17/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

Davis Arthur, a junior majoring in physics in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), spent his summer interning at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the largest U.S. Department of Energy open science laboratory.

“I had the opportunity to work on the very same campus as the world’s fastest supercomputer as well as the graphite reactor used in the Manhattan project,” shared Davis.

He was awarded COSAM’s Outstanding Sophomore Award and the Department of Physics Sophomore Award, and spent his summer getting hands-on experience with cybersecurity and communication systems.

“My project at Oak Ridge was focused on demonstrating the practicality of securing electric grid communications using quantum key distribution (QKD),” Davis explained. “For most of the summer, I worked to show that a sample electric grid communication interchange could be secured with information theoretic security using a state-of-the-art commercial QKD system.”

His research with electric grid communications has direct applications with the real world.

“If a cyber-attacker had unlimited computing power, and QKD is used properly, it is possible to protect electric grid communications with unbreakable cryptography,” he added. “Through my demonstration, I gained many hours of lab experience working with fiber optics, and I also learned the basic principles of symmetric cryptography. The internship also helped me practice my scientific writing and poster presentation skills.”

During the summer, he was immersed in the world of quantum computing as well.

“I found myself most interested in IBM’s quantum computers, which could be accessed at ORNL through the IBM Cloud,” Davis said. “Since sophisticated quantum computers are still a technology of the future, it was exciting to watch a few of my fellow interns troubleshoot on some of the best performing quantum computers that exist today. The development of quantum computers seem to be on the frontier of science and technology today, and if a sophisticated quantum computer is ever developed, its implications on computing and cybersecurity are endless.”

Davis not only spent his summer interning at one of the most prestigious laboratories in the world, he continued to fuel his passion for research while developing skills that will help him build an impactful career in science.

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