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Story in the College of Arts & Sciences

Schaefer photo

Ed Schaefer

Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science
At a glance:

Cryptography and the AIDS epidemic in Africa are two strong areas of interest for this math professor.

Ed Schaefer's career with the mathematics and computer science department covers geometry, cryptography, Internet security, and promoting educational opportunities in Africa. He is comfortable in the very abstract field of arithmetic geometry as well as tackling the very practical dilemma of how to mitigate Africa's AIDS crisis.

That's quite a spectrum.

His scholarly expertise in arithmetic geometry evolved into a focus on cryptography, just as the field was exploding with interest around Internet security issues. Suddenly he was very much in demand.

Then an interest in teaching abroad landed him in Malawi, the small, densely populated country in southeast Africa.

He taught at Mzuzu University, helping the school establish a graduate program in computer security. Since then, he's returned almost every year during the summer—often with some Santa Clara University students—to teach at the school and continue to develop the school's computer programs.

"It's a magical place," he says of the area around the university in northern Malawi. But limited resources and minimal facilities posed a real challenge for him as he developed the new program.

Schaefer says Santa Clara students who have gone with him to Malawi have a new appreciation for the privileges of California. "It is just very different there," he says. "They return with new eyes for what we have."

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