Student Stories Right

Four Ph.D. Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Four of the department’s Ph.D. students, Tolson Bell, Daniel Hathcock, Alec Sun and Allison Wang have received prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships to support their work. The five-year program supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines. It is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

■ Jocelyn Duffy

tolson bell

Tolson Bell

daniel hathcock

Daniel Hathcock

alec sun

Alec Sun

allison wang

Allison Wang

SUAMI 2021

Despite the global pandemic, the Department of Mathematical Sciences was able to host another successful Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute (SUAMI) in 2021. Fourteen students worked in teams alongside Carnegie Mellon faculty members Bill Hrusa and David Offner, CMU Math Ph.D. alumnus Aris Winger (now faculty at Georgia Gwinnett) and current math Ph.D. candidate Ben Weber on projects in discrete mathematics and mathematical finance. The first seven weeks were held remotely, but the final week was held in person at CMU’s Pittsburgh campus. For many students, who came from colleges and universities across the country, this was their first exposure to research.

Under the able supervision of Hrusa and Weber, Laila Ali from Bryn Mawr College, Taj Allamby from Morehouse College, Mika Campbell from Spelman College and Vanessa Wu from Carnegie Mellon worked together on a project that looked at the process and equations that underlie investment decisions as they relate to Pfizer and Moderna — two of the companies manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. Allamby and Campbell were introduced to the program through professors at their colleges, who knew of the program through Hrusa and his extensive outreach efforts to other institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“I really enjoyed learning from each other. We come from different backgrounds, different walks of life and were able to use these tools to put something together,” said Ali.

The students, whose majors included pre-med, math and business, enjoyed being encouraged to explore quantitative thinking, and said it would help them in their future careers.

“Professor Hrusa really pushed us. He challenged us to think beyond, even if finance wasn’t our background,” said Campbell.

Most of the students traveled to Pittsburgh for a program-ending poster session, where they gathered with students participating in the summer research programs from the Mellon College of Science’s other departments.

Numerous other undergraduate projects were carried out in the department over the summer. SEMS (Summer Experiences in Mathematical Sciences) was created in 2020, thanks to former Department Head Tom Bohman’s phenomenal instinct and responsiveness, to provide opportunities for students whose summer plans were disrupted by the pandemic. This highly successful program ran again in the summer of 2021. There were also Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) projects, Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (SURA) projects and projects supported by individual grants. This impressive collection of activities was coordinated by Irina Gheorghiciuc, director of undergraduate research.

■ Jocelyn Duffy