Prix Jeune Talent L’Oréal – UNESCO 2019
Mélissa Rossi (Inria project team Cascade), winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO grant
Mélissa Rossi - ©Fondation l’Oréal / Jean-Charles Caslot
Set up to recognise the achievements of female researchers and help them get their careers off the ground, L’Oréal - Unesco grants are awarded each year to PhD students and postdoc researchers in all scientific fields. 35 grants are to be awarded in 2019, including 5 to researchers directly affiliated with or linked to Inria teams. We met up with Mélissa Rossi from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, a member of the Inria project team CASCADE (Conception et Analyse de Systèmes pour la Confidentialité et l'Authentification de Données et d'Entités).
Mélissa Rossi, a researcher focused on data security
Mélissa Rossi grew up in Provence, where she quickly developed a talent for abstraction and logic. With support from her family, in particular from her grandmother, who never had the opportunity to go to university, Rossi studied at an engineering school in Paris, where a number of her professors encouraged her to take up a career in research.
It was during her time there that she first came across cryptography, the science of secret codes. The primary function of this discipline, which sits at the interface between mathematics and IT, is to protect confidential data. Her work involves studying the security level of codes and trying to work out if she might be able to “break” them. In other words, in much the same way as a hacker, her aim is to decipher codes in order to access concealed information, with the ultimate goal always being to improve security protocols and to protect our data.
In a field where the presence of women is sorely lacking, Rossi is already excelling, going as far as playing a role in what is a particularly important assignment for cryptography: anticipating the arrival of the quantum computer. Quantum computers remain theoretical, but could quickly become a threat to the security of private data, as they will have processing power enabling them to break our current security codes.
Our bank details, medical records, military secrets, identities (passports, ID cards, etc.) and private communications are currently protected mathematically. The arrival of the quantum computer could change everything, making it essential to create new encryption algorithms that will be unbreakable in the future. This is one of the long-term goals of the research carried out by Mélissa Rossi.
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"For Women and Science" Award
Each year, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award recognizes 5 eminent female scientist from the 5 regions of the world for their remarkable contribution to the advancement of research.
Apart from this award, thirty grants are also dedicated to young female researchers (doctorate or post-doctorate) across the world.
Since the creation of the program in 1998, 3 award-winning female scientists have received a Nobel Prize , while more than 3 100 female scientists have been recognized and put under the spotlight thanks to this distinction.