Matthew Toso wins best student paper award

Matthew Toso wins best undergraduate student paper award at the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium

Senior Matthew Toso, a quantitative methods and computer science major, was awarded the best undergraduate student paper award at the 39th annual Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium held at Iowa Wesleyan College earlier this month.

"My paper isn’t as hard to understand as the title," Toso said. “It's 'Combining Steganography and Zero Knowledge Proofs to Embed and Prove a Digital Signature in an Image.' In summary, I describe the basic idea of steganography, which is hiding a message within another message and I relate this idea to digital images. I then explain how a zero knowledge proof works, most importantly how they can be used to prove your identity without allowing others to impersonate you later on. I combine the two concepts by embedding a zero knowledge proof in a digital image. This in effect places a 'digital signature' within the image allowing you to prove that you own it."

Toso received a spring 2004 Collaborative Inquiry Grant to research this area and Dr. Sun Chung, Quantitative Methods and Computer Science Department, was his faculty collaborator.

Chung explained the significance of the project: "It was about building a scheme that used a novel approach to proving ownership of digital contents such as an image or a text file."

Toso and Chung worked together for 10 weeks in spring 2004 on the project. Since then, they have refined the results of the 2004 project.

"My sincere thanks go to Dr. Chung for pushing me to excel," Toso said. "I wouldn't have thought to attend the symposium if he hadn't approached me with the idea." His travel to the symposium was supported by a UST travel grant.

"Seeing that I enjoyed being challenged academically, Dr. Chung approached me with the idea of researching zero knowledge proofs and steganography as a collaborative inquiry my sophomore year and again to write a paper for the symposium this year," Toso said.

He also credits Dr. Kelli Larson, English Department, for the success he had in writing his paper. "It was through her excellent instruction that I learned how to write an award-winning paper."

Toso encourages other students to participate in the Collaborative Inquiry program and regional academic conferences. "They are experiences that will truly help you grow as student (and they look great on a résumé)," he said.