By Wes Saylors
If one wants to know how encrypted messages were sent between Allied forces during World War II and how those encrypted messages were often intercepted and decoded by the opposing side, Dr. Rick Klima just may be your man.
Think Alan Turing during World War II. Or Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing in 2014. Klima’s students recently worked on the construction of an electromechanical device that replicates the operation of an Enigma Cryptographic machine.
A professor and assistant chair in Appalachian’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, Klima’s main area of scholarship is in applications of linear and abstract algebra, primarily in cryptology and error correcting codes. But, in his role as faculty and academic mentor in The Honors College for all honors STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors, his teaching takes any number of directions. During the recent highdrama election cycle, he taught Math and Fairness in Democratic Elections, wherein one of the student projects involved creating hypothetical models for alternative elections. Another interdisciplinary course involved the creation of a new cryptographic method that uses music in the encryption and decryption of information.
“I love studying areas in which mathematics overlaps with other disciplines and with popular culture,” he said. “Teaching honors courses gives me an avenue for exploring some of these areas with talented students who otherwise may never be exposed to how mathematics is relevant in their everyday lives.”
Klima recently attended his second National Collegiate Honors Council meeting, solidifying his commitment to honors students at Appalachian and beyond. “I am keenly aware of my good fortune to be at Appalachian,” he said. “I am able every day to engage a talented, diverse and versatile student body in small classes with what I find most interesting about mathematics, the most fascinating subject in the world.”