Watch CBS News

Associate Professor In Baltimore Uses Mathematics To Counter Terrorism

In school, teachers and educators constantly emphasize the necessity for learning mathematics and how the subject applies to everyday life. While the basics such as addition and subtraction do play an obvious role in day-to-day operations for most, many people continue to question why there is even a need to learn advanced mathematics and how it is relevant to life. Dr. Jonathan Farley, an associate professor of Morgan State University, can answer that question.

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Jonathan Farley)

Beyond being just a classroom curriculum requirement, Farley knows firsthand the importance of applying advanced mathematics to make the world a safer place. In fact, he actively applies his interests in lattice theory and the theory of ordered sets in the fight against terrorism. His work has been utilized in a number of ways and recognized both nationally and internationally.

Farley earned a degree in mathematics from Harvard University where he graduated summa cum laude. He then went on to Oxford University, United Kingdom where he obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy in mathematics. He also won the Senior Mathematical Prize and Johnson University Prize, Oxford's highest mathematical awards. Farley has countless other awards and recognitions attributed to his many achievements in addition to these.

What inspired you to pursue working with mathematical methods in counterterrorism?

"I became interested in developing mathematical methods in counterterrorism around the time I was forced to flee the state of Tennessee, leaving many of my possessions behind, after receiving a few dozen death threats from supporters of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. [Later on] I arrived at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a visiting associate professor of applied mathematics and saw a flier for a talk entitled 'Modeling the Al Qaeda Threat.' The speaker was a Gordon Woo of Risk Management Solutions. It was, like all his talks, stimulating, and it led me to draft my first paper on this topic."

What are the responsibilities of your current role? 

"I am supervising a student from Iran, who is trying to discern the structure of the 'perfect' terrorist cell. [Recently] I met with a student about applying lattice theory to the control of teams of robots, with an eye toward applying lattice theory to military drones."

What is your favorite part about your daily duties?

"My favorite part is that my work has actually been applied by the Ministry of National Security in Jamaica."

How has your education and training prepared you for your current role? 

"I am an expert in the theory of ordered sets. I model terrorist cells using ordered sets."

What do you do to continue your education and training?

"I continue to learn algebra. [Recently] I read part of the book, A Term of Commutative Algebra, by Altman and MIT professor Kleiman."

Laura Catherine Hermoza has a lifelong love for writing. In addition to serving as a contributor to various media publications, she is also a published novelist of several books and works as a proofreader/editor. LC resides in Baltimore County.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.