SooKyung Lee

Hometown: Louisville, KY 
College: College of Science
Major: Mathematics - Computer Science

October 8th, 2007: a date forever etched in my memory. We were at the airport terminal with our four checked bags, three carry-ons, and backpacks on our shoulders. It seemed a bit much for a late summer vacation. We were actually headed to a new life. As I set my foot on the American land, I realized I had over-packed. I had stowed away all of the burdensome articles: my pride, concerns, unreasonable expectations, and close-mindedness. Some of these invisible pests clung to me. I was not compelled to shake them off. Even TSA did not pick-up on these forbidden passengers. I bore their weight into the United States, and all the way through those first years.

One day, I could feel the blood rushing to my ears as my face turned crimson, “Why would you want to be a woman mathematician? No one will ever respect you.” I turned away to hide the fury that I was positive was written all over my face. When I got disparaging looks in class, when people questioned my basic intelligence, or when my professors, as mentors, failed me, I continued to push past the frustration and embrace being a woman in mathematics because mathematics is a fundamental tool for understanding our world: it can be used to define the geometric pattern of beehives or to manage global companies. The creativity inherent in crafting and applying mathematical concepts is what inspires me to study it. Through modeling, mathematics can be implemented in encryption schemes to counteract hackers. It is this field of study I want to focus on: cyber security. However, my understanding in mathematical modeling is limited, and the opportunities are rare.

Ever since the beginning of my journey to U.S., I myself have made a conscious decision: the past is done, and the future is near. Eleven years later, I am still disposing of my excess luggage. My greatest fear was that I would not be able to go far in my life and share my interest and understanding of mathematical modeling. I did not want my gender to define who I was as a person and limit my aspirations to mathematically analyze the risk of major breaches in cybersecurity to ensure the integration of security from internal and external threats to our nation. I will spend more time focused on my academics, improving my understanding of mathematical modeling, and developing my ability to be culturally and academically open-minded. At University of St. Andrews, I want to experience rigorous coursework while exploring specific areas of mathematics and to explore what can be done with mathematical modeling in my future career of cyber security.

With a large financial center and increasing opportunities in cyber security, the companies at Scotland are growing fast in the cyber security market. From Scotland’s tech center in Edinburgh, Glasgow’s growing list of Software Development opportunities, and Dundee's long history of computer game development, Scotland already has experience and expertise in providing account security online. I am interested in working as a cybersecurity analyst as a career. Hence, the opportunities that lie in Scotland will expose me to different approaches focused on protecting people's livelihoods and maintaining privacy from cyber criminals that are constantly evolving their techniques. By studying at University of St. Andrews, I will be equipped with the skills I need to deal with international issues regarding cybersecurity and build a foundation of knowledge aimed at understanding and communicating with a diverse multi-ethnic workforce.

Similar to moving to the U.S., I will be living in an environment where communicating with ease is no longer the reality and given differences in points of view and culture, I hope to understand the different perceptions of women in STEM, and successfully see myself as a mathematician in cybersecurity.

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