Professor Jennifer Seberry

Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Chris Cook, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Jennifer Roma Seberry as an Emeritus Professor of the University on 23 July 2015.


Deputy Chancellor, I present Jennifer Seberry.

Jennifer Seberry is a remarkable researcher, educator and mentor who pioneered a path into fields historically dominated by men, carving out an impressive legacy and lighting the way for those who follow. In the words of Helen Keller writing to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939, “because you have so bravely struck out on a self-chosen trail, you inspire other women with confidence in themselves and in life. You show them how through rightly directed intelligence and will-power they can evolve higher capabilities and raise the average of human accomplishment.”

Born in Camperdown, Sydney, Jennifer Seberry entered the workforce at 19 years old as a computer programmer at a time when the profession wasn’t as male-dominated as it was to become. She subsequently worked as a high school teacher, teaching mathematics and science while completing her Bachelor of Science (Honours), which she was awarded in 1966 by the University of New South Wales (UNSW). In 1969, she attained a Master of Science and in 1971, earned her PhD in computational mathematics, both from La Trobe University, by which time she was also juggling two sons, Ralph and Luke, who were both under five years old.

From 1966, Jennifer’s career traversed the globe, as she spent time as a lecturer, researcher and visiting fellow at institutions including Melbourne University, the University of Newcastle, the University of Waterloo, Canada, the University of Manitoba, Canada, the State University of New York at Buffalo in the USA, the University of Indore, India, the Australian National University and the University of Sydney (USYD), where she stayed for over a decade exploring the application of mathematics in computer security and cryptography.

In 1987, as the Head of Computer Science at the University College of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), Professor Seberry became the first female professor of Computer Science in Australia. She continued to work at ADFA as the Director of the Centre for Computer Security Research, before returning to the University of Sydney and UNSW, where she was the leader of the team which designed the LOKI family of encryption algorithms. However, Professor Seberry was off on her travels again, taking up the roles of Professor of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in the USA. As you can tell, Professor Seberry has sustained this vital international experience, collegiality and collaboration throughout her career; regularly convening, chairing and being invited as a keynote speaker to national and international conferences and committees.

Joining the University of Wollongong in 1992, Professor Seberry’s time here has encompassed research, course development, teaching and academic governance. A passionate researcher, Professor Seberry has published extensively in discrete mathematics, Hadamard matrices and combinatorial designs. She has written over 450 research publications and has also undertaken consultancy work for major industry clients.

At UOW, Professor Seberry established the Centre for Computer Security Research – one of the earliest in Australia – to ‘provide a reservoir of expertise for computer security’. It has contributed significantly to Australia’s security research and it is part of the reason why she is regarded as “the mother of Cryptography in Australia”.

Renowned for her generous mentoring, Professor Seberry has supervised 30 PhD students, seven Masters Research Honours theses and 20 Undergraduate Honours theses. Many of the notable names in cryptology in Australia have been her students and protégés at some time and now hold senior positions throughout the world.

Professor Seberry herself holds a number of prestigious fellowships and in 2012 was elected a Fellow of the International Association on Cryptology Research for her ‘outstanding contributions to research and education in cryptologic research and education and for fostering the Australian research community’. Professor Seberry remains the Association’s only Australian Fellow.

As an internationally recognised cryptographer, mathematician and scientist, Professor Seberry can be proud of her many achievements. Her nearly five decades in teaching speak great volumes on her desire to nurture learning, while encouraging students to consider the importance of mathematics as a foundation skill with benefits that translate into a wide range of professions.

Deputy Chancellor, for her exceptional service and dedication to this University and her distinguished contribution to computer security and mathematics, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Jennifer Seberry for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.