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SIAM to Sponsor Project NExT Fellows

By Kathleen Kavanagh, Lidia Mrad, and Carl Giuffre

In an effort to further support the professional development of junior faculty, particularly in the area of teaching and applied mathematics education, SIAM will now annually sponsor two Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) fellows. Organized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), Project NExT is a professional development program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences that “addresses all aspects of an academic career: improving the teaching and learning of mathematics, engaging in research and scholarship, finding exciting and interesting service opportunities, and participating in professional activities,” per the MAA.

Carl Giuffre, Adelphi University.
Workforce preparation and fulfillment of industry begins with teaching excellence in applied mathematics. Junior faculty play a key role in fostering an appreciation for math while empowering students from different backgrounds to solve a wide range of complex, real-world problems. However, not all recent Ph.D.s are equipped with the right resources or training to thrive in an academic setting. One of the most valuable aspects of Project NExT is its creation of a network of peers and mentors for fellows navigating their new careers.

Each cohort of fellows participates in Project NExT workshops preceding MathFest (the MAA’s summer meeting) for two consecutive years. They also take part in Project NExT sessions during MathFest and additional activities throughout the meeting. In addition, fellows organize Project NExT-sponsored sessions at MathFest and the Joint Mathematics Meetings. Workshop topics include engaging students in specific mathematics courses, supporting individuals from historically underserved groups, involving undergraduates in mathematical research, writing grant proposals, and balancing teaching and research. In late July, the SIAM Conference on Applied Mathematics Education will be co-located with MathFest in Philadelphia, Penn., thus offering synergy between these two communities. 

Carl Giuffre and Lidia Mrad are the first two SIAM Project NExT fellows. Giuffre received his Ph.D. in biomathematics from North Carolina State University, where he studied honey bees. His present research encompasses all social insects, including ants and termites. Giuffre uses computer vision, differential equations, and mathematical modeling to answer important questions in entomology. He is currently teaching at Adelphi University, where his Project NExT fellowship has allowed him to step outside of the traditional “college lecture” and promote a more inquiry-based learning environment. Project NExT has provided Giuffre with the tools and resources to challenge pedagogical norms while also maximizing his leadership skills and teaching potential.

Lidia Mrad, Mount Holyoke College.
Lidia Mrad earned her Ph.D. in mathematics, with a concentration in computational science, from Purdue University. She seeks to blend computational and analytical techniques to solve problems in materials science, specifically in the area of liquid crystals. Using methods from the calculus of variations, partial differential equations, and mathematical modeling, Mrad studies liquid crystal behavior relevant to optical and biological applications. After completing her postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona, she joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Mount Holyoke College. Mrad’s Project NExT fellowship has allowed her to connect with like-minded educators who wish to further engage students with mathematics inside and outside the classroom. She plans to use the program’s support and resources to introduce more applied mathematics courses in her department and work with undergraduate students on exciting new projects.

Applications for the Project NExT fellowship require a personal statement, research statement, one-page curriculum vitae, and letter of support from the department chair. Eligibility requirements include a recent Ph.D. in mathematics, statistics, math education, or other math-intensive field, with a teaching position and experiences, attitudes, ideas, and leadership abilities that would contribute to the cohort. For consideration for the SIAM position, candidates must indicate their SIAM membership on their applications. Fellows are selected by an MAA committee. The next application deadline is April 15, 2020. See the website for further information.

The impact of one exceptional faculty member undoubtedly has a far reach in the scientific community and at SIAM. SIAM is excited about this opportunity to contribute to excellence in applied mathematics education for the next generation of interdisciplinary problem-solvers.

  Kathleen Kavanagh is a professor of mathematics at Clarkson University and the Vice President for Education at SIAM. 
Lidia Mrad is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Mount Holyoke College.
Carl Giuffre is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Adelphi University.