Yao Chen

Yao Chen is a Master’s student from Shanghai, China. She researches post-quantum secure protected communications with Prof. Guang Gong’s Communications Security Lab. She studies at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

First introduced 15 years ago, Yao was captivated by the history of Enigma, the World War I communication system. She was fascinated by the mathematical battle between Enigma cipher designers and the cryptanalysts trying to break these ciphers. Later on, Yao became interested in modern cryptographic tools and the security problems that she faces in her own life, such as anonymous browsing and data protection on smartphones.

Her research centers on an encryption system called fully homomorphic encryption, which allows encrypted messages to be mathematically manipulated without the need to decrypt them first. This kind of encryption could open up new possibilities for encrypted databases and cloud computing. Her goal is to make fully homomorphic encryption a practical reality for normal computers, which could result in applications for consumer devices like smart grids.

As a researcher, Yao is motivated and excited by moments of discovery and the chance to unlock the secrets of this world. However, these moments of discovery come after much persistence; Yao compares research to finding a way through a huge, dark maze, trying many doors before finally finding one open door that can lead the way forwards.

When Yao encounters difficult research, she finds that a walk around Waterloo calms him. Having grown up in Chinese cities, she enjoys Waterloo for its quiet and friendliness. She has also travelled to other areas of Canada including Algonquin Park, where she saw the Milky Way for the first time.

Outside of research, Yao enjoys music and teaching. She plays guitar, sings with the University of Waterloo University Choir and listens to classical music. Yao plans to pursue a PhD and continue working with Prof. Gong after completing her current degree. She hopes to become a professor or an industrial researcher to continue teaching as well as researching in her future.