Eckley Scholar Bobby Koirala ’22 Devises Algorithm for Number Theory Problem
Oct. 16, 2020
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Junior computer science and physics double major Bobby Koirala ’22 spent his summer designing a complex algorithm to
compute a unique set of numbers within number theory, as part of his 2020 Eckley Fellowship
project “Constructing Carmichael Numbers of Order 2.”
A problem written on the math department’s white board first piqued Koirala’s interest
in Carmichael numbers, a type of composite number in number theory that can satisfy
a specific congruence relation. When he learned that Associate Professor of Computer
Science Andrew Shallue also shared an interest in researching Carmichael numbers,
requesting Shallue as his faculty advisor felt like the perfect equation. Shallue
worked with Koirala on his Eckley project throughout the summer via email and video
call, addressing technical issues and sharing his experience with number theory research.
In his endeavor to determine Carmichael numbers computationally, Koirala designed
an algorithm that could calculate the numbers and added some restrictions on the parameter
choices for the algorithm. The goal was to build an algorithm that still had many
possible parameter choices, while also optimizing the algorithm so that it could finish
constructing Carmichael numbers within a reasonable time frame.
Koirala’s first algorithm accepted many parameters but was still too restrictive to
prove useful; however, his second attempt looks promising, and he hopes to continue
optimizing this algorithm during the fall semester.
While theoretical mathematics flies over the heads of most laypeople, Koirala came
away from his experience as an Eckley Scholar with not only a better grasp of number
theory but also a number of problem-solving skills to use in his everyday career.
“I found the experience very rewarding because I learned not only about theoretical
topics, but I also learned a lot of practical knowledge that will be useful in my
computer science career, through working with various tools and solving numerous technical
problems that come up along the way.”