Three Luce Fellows polish their first journal articles in astronomy, mathematics
Before enrolling at the University of Chicago in 2009, Olga Turanova and Jessica Lin had heard that graduate students in mathematics enjoy a special feeling of community here.
"It certainly is true," Turanova said. Added Lin: "The sense of community really is unique to the Math Department at University of Chicago. That solidified my choice."
Turanova and Lin are both recipients of a 2009 Clare Boothe Luce Fellowship at the University, as is Erin Martell in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the fellowships support first-year women graduate students in physical sciences at the University.
Luce Fellows receive first-year tuition for graduate study, along with more than $22,000 in additional support. Turanova also has received a Microsoft Research 2010 Graduate Women's Scholarship, which provides $17,000 in support.
All three women began their research careers as undergraduates, and all three already also have their first journal articles in various stages of completion. Martell is on a team of eight co-authors completing a paper titled "Modeling broadband X-ray absorption of massive star winds."
The team, led by Maurice Leutenegger of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, includes David Cohen, associate professor of astronomy at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, with whom Martell collaborated as a senior.
Martell chose UChicago for graduate study because of its stellar collection of cosmologists. Swarthmore has only two astronomy professors. The compact program offered her the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research, but she is still adjusting to the size of Chicago's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, which has 26 faculty members.
"It's always amazing to me when I come in every day how many astronomers there are in a place like this," she said.
Lin's "Platonic Dynamics" has been recommended for publication in the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems. Her co-author is William Ott, assistant professor in mathematics at the University of Houston, with whom she worked at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in 2007 and 2008.
Williams College connection
Lin has another paper in preparation: "Measurable time-restricted sensitivity," with Cesar Silva, Hagey Family professor of mathematics at Williams College, and four other co-authors. The paper is an outgrowth of her participation in the summer 2008 SMALL Mathematics Research Program at Williams College in Massachusetts.
Turanova also took part in the SMALL program that same summer, studying knot theory. Her group's resulting "The Spiral Index of Knots" has been accepted for publication in the Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.
Co-authored by Colin Adams, who headed Turanova's SMALL Mathematics Research Program, and W. George, R. Hudson, R. Morrison, L. Starkston, and S. Taylor, the paper explores the intricacies of knot theory. "The main idea of knot theory is, here's one knot and here's another and they're all tangled up. I want to know: are they the same or are they different?" Turanova said.
Turanova will focus on analysis for her doctoral specialty. The classes she has taken so far have all been interesting, she said.
"I like them all."
Lin is primarily interested in analysis, a branch of mathematics that includes calculus and other techniques often applied to scientific problems. "I've been interested in using math to understand phenomena in science and other areas. Analysis is one of the most natural ways to translate problems in physics and materials science into a mathematical context," she said.
Luce Fellows and the arts
Turanova, Lin and Martell have cultivated artistic interests over the years, as did the namesake of their fellowship. Clare Boothe Luce achieved success during her career as a playwright, editor, politician, journalist and diplomat.
Turanova enjoys making sketches of the outdoors, especially trees. Lin trained at the Ellison Ballet in New York City to become a professional ballerina before opting for mathematics. Martell managed the 100-member Swarthmore College Chorus and sang first soprano.
"I like drawing outdoors because there's always something new," Turanova said. "Trees change drastically with the seasons, and even from day to day, so even one tree turns out to be a lot to explore."
The Swarthmore College Chorus performed a wide variety of large choral pieces, from Bach's "Mass in B Minor" to Orff's "Carmina Burana." As manager, Martell's duties included designing recruitment posters and concert programs, and helping to set up the risers.
"I found that I actually got much, much stronger through my college years from having to set up and take down the risers with the conductor and no more than three other students," Martell said.
Lin grew up planning to become a professional ballerina. She had always enjoyed mathematics, but never saw it as a potential career until her first year at NYU. At the end of her first year, a professional ballet company offered her a contract, her original goal for going to New York. Nevertheless, her burgeoning interest in mathematics won out.
"As I study mathematics, I am always reminded of the lessons of hard work, discipline, attention to detail, and critical analysis of one's performance that I learned from ballet," Lin said.
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