What does Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, have in common with four students from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences?
All of them are National Science Foundation (NSF) fellows.
NSF awarded several BYU students 2012 Graduate Research Fellowships, each one includes a three-year $30,000 annual stipend and an allowance for graduate school tuition and fees. The application is extensive, with a research proposal, several essays and a biographical portion. Having four CPMS students and alumni receive these fellowships is impressive.
A geology graduate, Hoiland is reaching mountainous conclusions in his research. While working towards his PhD at Stanford University, he is studying the rise and fall of mountain belts caused by tectonic forces.
Mountains are built by the collision of tectonic plates. When the collision stops, the crust of the earth begins to relax and stretch. One such location is the American Cordillera (which includes the Rocky and the Sierra mountain ranges). As the earth is stretched, mountain ranges slowly collapse under their own weight.
Hoiland hopes to better understand the rise and fall of mountain belts through his research.
He is grateful for the time he spent studying at BYU and his helpful mentors. “I can’t think of a better place than BYU to have been an undergraduate in the sciences,” Hoiland said. “The quality of the teaching and the opportunities to do research there as an undergraduate are on par with any top-ranked institution.”
With graduation and graduate school on his mind, John Lopez was surprised when the email came during winter semester to inform him he had won an NSF fellowship.
“I really wanted to get [the fellowship], so I worked hard and wrote good essays,” Lopez said. “I was really excited to find out I got the grant because I wasn’t expecting to get it.”
Lopez’s research in mathematics, advised by Darrin Doud and Paul Jenkins, proved that Fourier coefficients of modular forms are often highly divisible by two.
Lopez graduated in April and is headed for Emory University’s PhD program to work with Ken Ono, a leading researcher of modular forms. “After completing the program, I want to be a math professor so I can do both research and teaching,” he said. “I hope to prove interesting theorems on the way.”
Bryan Perry, a recent graduate of the BYU math department pursuing a PhD at MIT, is researching alternative monetary policy rules. These policies set a standard for economic factors.
Using a modified version of a macroeconomic model, Bryan’s research helped determine which of the policy rules would perform best in a crisis like a recession.
“The discussion of alternative monetary policy rules has intensified recently in both academic circles and popular press,” Perry said. “This project will help to inform that discussion.”
Perry’s efforts brought to light causes of past recessions.
Currently a graduate student at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Robert Richardson graduated from BYU in 2010 in statistics, specializing in actuarial science. After passing several actuarial exams, he entered a research program called IMPACT, and realized research was what interested him most.
Richardson is currently completing a PhD program in Santa Cruz. He will use his NSF fellowship to develop a method of handling data across multiple spatial locations, such as ecological, financial, and health fields.
“The methods we propose will be tested on climate data, population-prey data, and spreading of disease,” Richardson said. He believes that the unresolved issues in these areas can be resolved through his method.
Upon completing his PhD, Richardson will pursue a research career.
NSF also recognized CPMS alumni Nathan Wilde and Nathan Clement as honorable mentions.