Jennifer Newman honored for outstanding research in discrete mathematics applied to image processing, computer security and steganography

Jennifer Newman conducting research at CSAFE
Jennifer Newman, CSAFE (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Jennifer Newman, associate professor of mathematics at Iowa State University, has been awarded the Scott Hanna Faculty Fellowship for her discrete mathematics research which has made significant contributions to the field of forensic steganography.

Steganography is the practice of concealing data—such as images, video and audio—within conventional files. Newman has developed mathematical and statistical modeling to detect steganography. Thwarting steganography is important because the practice can be used to commit serious crimes. Malicious hackers use steganography to spread malware; and international spies have possibly harnessed the technique to covertly transmit classified intelligence within everyday images.

“My research creates discrete mathematics techniques to solve imaging problems that appear in steganography, forensic imagine analysis, image processing, texture analysis and other imaging areas,” Newman said. “I feel very fortunate and am very honored that this work has been recognized with the Scott Hanna Faculty Fellowship.”

Newman’s current research is conducted through the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) at Iowa State. It is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. Department of Commerce agency. Newman’s research has also earned competitive grants from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Institute of Justice.

Numerous accomplishments
Newman’s research spans a broad range of disciplines—from computer science and electrical engineering—to mathematics, statistics and machine learning. She is currently developing a learning diagnostic tool for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to verify severe wind reports.

An accomplished scholar, Newman has published more than 75 studies in peer-reviewed publications. She served on the editorial board for the Journal of Mathematical Imaging and Vision and is a sought-after speaker on issues of software security, mathematics, steganography and digital image forensics.

Newman and her team developed the first steganography image database for mobile applications. European forensics groups have expressed interest in using the publicly available database to develop an extensive steganography tool.

Since joining Iowa State’s mathematics department in 2004, Newman has made significant impacts. She spearheaded the curricula development for courses in image processing, computer vision, digital imaging forensics, computer engineering and machine learning. In 2010, Newman was appointed half-time associate chair of mathematics. She served in this role for eight years, before stepping back into her previous position of associate professor of mathematics.

The Scott Hanna Fellowship in Mathematics
The Scott Hanna Faculty Fellowship recognizes outstanding math faculty who demonstrate excellence in teaching, research and service, in addition to making meaningful contributions to mathematics, specifically in the areas of algebra, logic or discrete mathematics.

Established in 2018, the Scott Hanna Faculty Fellowship was created after Scott Hanna (’77 metallurgy) bequeathed a generous donation to the math department. Hanna passed away in 2019.

The award will support Newman’s ongoing research and select projects through 2024. She will use the funds to hire graduate and postdoctoral researchers to support her studies.

“I have worked with very dedicated and talented students on my research projects,” Newman said. “This fellowship allows me to bring in additional researchers who can learn from engaging in fundamental and cross-disciplinary research.”

Newman earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Mount Holyoke College, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Florida, Gainesville.