Four Ph.D. Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
■ Jocelyn Duffy
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.
“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