Mary Lynn Reed

2018 Recipient of the Mathematics Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement
“Receiving my doctorate in mathematics from the University of Illinois is one of my proudest achievements; receiving this award is truly an honor and another such moment of extreme pride. The foundation of my mathematical life was built in Champaign-Urbana. At NSA, I’ve made strong use of that foundation, both in applying advanced mathematics to missioncritical problems and in setting the strategic direction of our mathematics research efforts. I’ve also had the privilege of working closely with many of my alumni colleagues who are also applying their Illinois education to the service of our nation.”

Dr. Mary Lynn Reed (MS 1990; PhD 1995 Mathematics) is currently Chief of Mathematics Research at the National Security Agency (NSA). Through her diverse and productive career, she has distinguished herself as a national figure in the mathematics profession, making direct research contributions to the classified and unclassified bodies of mathematics literature, demonstrating clear impact to the security of the United States and of the world. She has made visionary efforts to ensure a strong future for applied research for national security, by serving as a leader for diversity and inclusion, and by her dedication to increasing the participation of women in the mathematical sciences.

In addition to her 18-year career at NSA, Dr. Reed has held a variety of other positions, including assistant professor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, staff scientist at HNC Software, research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and actuarial analyst at Milliman USA.

As Chief of Mathematics Research at NSA, Dr. Reed manages the Mathematics Research Group, which is the mathematical heart of NSA. She also oversees three Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) centers: the Centers for Communications Research in Princeton, NJ, and La Jolla, CA, and the Center for Computing Sciences in Bowie, MD.  In 2017, she led a team to restructure NSA’s research organizations and programs not only in mathematics, but also in computer science, cybersecurity, physical sciences, and telecommunications. She has set directions for internal research in both mathematics and computer science, including the application of recent developments in artificial intelligence to cryptanalysis.

Dr. Reed has been a strong and effective supporter of NSA’s engagements with academic partners. She has supported and determined research topics of summer programs for professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students including the Director’s Summer Program, an elite program for the most capable undergraduate math majors in the country, and by ensuring NSA support of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer programs across the U.S.

She has supported long-running research contracts with universities; she has recruited talented academic mathematicians to serve on the NSA Advisory Board’s Mathematics Panel; and she has supported dissemination of NSA-developed mathematics to the broader community through publication in journals, books, conference talks, and patents. She has also supported academic conferences both financially with funding for travel and conference fees and by enabling NSA participation. Dr. Reed has served as President of the Crypto-Mathematics Institute, NSA’s professional society for mathematicians, which helps bond NSA’s diverse internal mathematics community into a smoothly functioning whole.

Dr. Reed expressed her “deep gratitude to the U of I Department of Mathematics and to her colleagues who nominated her for this honor.  I’m thrilled to be able to accept the amazing honor of receiving the University of Illinois Department of Mathematics Alumni Outstanding Professional Achievement Award.”