Careers - Phil Hawkes

Working for Qualcomm in the design and analysis of stream ciphers (pseudo-random bit generators) used for encryption in mobile phones.

I am a son of missionaries from Papua New Guinea: they are now in Fiji. I developed an interest of maths in high school at Blue mountains Grammar School NSW and received lots of encouragement from the maths department. Through high school I was always involved in the Westpac Mathematics Competition (although I only received a prize in year 12). In 1990 I went to the National Mathematics Summer School, Canberra.

I have always enjoyed maths, and I’m amazed that still do. As I am not sick of it by now, I can't imagine that I ever will be. Personally, I enjoy the simpler forms of mathematics rather than trying to understand really difficult concepts; I especially enjoy exploring for patterns and relationships between different things. I must admit that some types of maths don’t interest me that much, but then there are many times when I’ve needed these less interesting forms of maths to manage the interesting maths (confused yet?), so boring maths is still worth learning.

While, doing maths can be a solo activity, some of my great memories have been doing maths with other people from year 12 onwards; you never know what you’ll find. Cryptography I enjoy because there are many possibilities that can be explored in looking for attacks and cryptography is important: finding an attack on a cipher has implications in the real world.

Aside from my research (and study at uni) I’ve usually been involved in helping lead youth group and Sunday school at the church I attend. I keep myself entertained playing guitar. I love international travel. Attending conferences and visiting universities to talk about my research has given me the opportunity to visit a variety of countries.

I have been working for Qualcomm, the company that developed the commercial version of CDMA (the mobile phone system that Telstra is using to replace the analog system) since completing my PhD in 1998. I have great flexibility in the research I want to do, and much of my research has commercial applications. My work involves a fair bit of programming as part of my analysis of ciphers.

I think I’ve managed to get the perfect job straight off: I get to do what I enjoy, and what I’m good at, and I get paid very well for it!

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Updated: 18 Sep 2007