PROVO — The National Security Agency has selected a Brigham Young University computer science professor to mentor top graduate-level interns working on key national security issues for the U.S. Department of Defense.

As this year's distinguished visiting professor, Sean Warnick will mentor top-notch interns from the NSA's Summer Program for Operations Research Technology (SPORT) program, helping them create mathematical models, conduct decision analysis and employ sophisticated simulations on some of the most state-of-the-art computing facilities in the world.

Warnick said he was "quite surprised" when the government called him last summer and asked him to apply for the program.

"Apparently it's not just an any ordinary summer position but an opportunity to work on a wide range of important projects," Warnick said. "I am eager to spearhead a strong relationship between our students at BYU and the Department of Defense."

Administered by the NSA Enterprise Operations Research, Modeling and Simulation Group, the position is highly competitive and is offered to a professor with a distinguished record in both decision science applications and student mentoring.

"It is important that we connect to the best emerging talent when solving critical problems," said Francine Goode, director of the SPORT program. "To help us with that, we conduct a national search and select a unique individual who not only understands the technical nature of the problems we are working on but also has the ability to connect with students and bring out the best they have to offer."

Warnick's aptitude for connecting with students and the breadth of his research applications impressed Goode and other NSA representatives who visited his Information and Decision Algorithms Laboratories (IDeA Labs) at BYU last fall.

"It is an amazing environment where students from various disciplines come together to work on decision problems arising in a variety of areas, from microbiology to economics," Goode said of the lab.

Warnick's work focuses on the feedback control of complex dynamical systems, with applications including proteomic network reconstruction, scheduling of batch manufacturing systems, and market power and valuation analyses in merger-and-acquisition studies.

He received his doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003, was a visiting scholar in the Control Systems Group at Cambridge University during the summer of 2006 and is the founding director of IDeA Labs at BYU.