SIAM News Blog

Introducing the Most Recent SIAM Project NExT Fellows

By Kathleen Kavanagh, David Elzinga, and Erin Ellefsen

SIAM recognizes the importance of promoting the professional development of junior faculty members, especially in the areas of teaching and education. The SIAM Activity Group on Applied Mathematics Education (SIAG/ED) aims to support early-career educators by advancing the development and practice of educational programs, courses, and resources in the field of applied math. Over the last five years, SIAM has also sponsored two Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) Fellows on an annual basis. Project NExT is a professional development program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences. The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) facilitates the program, which “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.”

Applied mathematics educators must prepare their students for the workforce and introduce them to employment prospects in a variety of sectors, including business, industry, and government. Junior faculty in particular play a key role in inspiring and empowering their students—especially those from underrepresented backgrounds—to solve a wide range of complex, real-world problems while simultaneously nurturing a deep-rooted appreciation for mathematics. But upon graduating with a Ph.D. in mathematics (or a related field) and accepting an academic teaching position, not all new faculty are fully equipped with the right resources or training to effectively support their students. Project NExT acknowledges this potential disconnect and aims to provide its Fellows with a network of peers and mentors as they navigate their careers and mentor students of their own.

David Elzinga of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Over the course of their first year as Project NExT Fellows, each cohort participates in a variety of workshops during MAA MathFest and the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM). Previous workshop topics have included effective time management, vibrant and inclusive communities, the incorporation of modeling in differential equations, classroom orientation around inquiry, and student preparation for careers in industry. SIAM Project NExT Fellows are also strongly encouraged to maintain regular correspondence with the SIAM Education Committee and take part in its activities, such as helping to organize SIAM-sponsored events at JMM and MathFest and attending SIAG/ED meetings.

SIAM is pleased to announce David Elzinga (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) and Erin Ellefsen (Earlham College) as the newest SIAM Project NExT Fellows. Both recipients greatly appreciate SIAM’s sponsorship of their Fellowships and are eager to continue their growth as educators.

David Elzinga is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He earned a B.S. in mathematics from Wichita State University in 2018 and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2023 with an M.S. in statistics and a Ph.D. in mathematics, with a concentration in mathematical biology.

As a graduate student, Elzinga served as co-president of the University of Tennessee SIAM Student Chapter and organized events that promoted community building around applied mathematics scholarship. His research couples mathematical and statistical modeling to combat the spread of infectious diseases in animals and provide practical recommendations to natural resource managers.

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Elzinga teaches undergraduate and graduate statistics courses and looks forward to starting his own research lab and recruiting interested students. He is grateful for all that SIAM has done to support him in his career and is excited to continue his involvement with the Society in the future.

Erin Ellefsen of Earlham College.
Erin Ellefsen is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at Earlham College. She received a B.A. in mathematics from Luther College in 2017 and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2022. While in graduate school, Ellefsen became a SIAM member and was involved with her university’s chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics. During that time, her research focused on nonlocal mathematical models with ecological applications.

Ellefsen now teaches and conducts research at Earlham, where she and her students use ordinary differential equations to model invasive species management. She is also passionate about supporting underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences. Project NExT has already served as an invaluable foundation for Ellefsen’s career by helping her implement best teaching practices in the classroom, jumpstarting her scholarship, and connecting her with a network of like-minded mathematicians. She is grateful for SIAM’s sponsorship and looks forward to remaining involved with SIAM in the future and engaging with more applied mathematicians as she advances her career.

Applications for Project NExT require a personal statement, research statement, one-page curriculum vitae, and letter of support from the candidate’s department chair. Eligibility requirements include a recent Ph.D. in mathematics, statistics, math education, or a similarly math-intensive field; a current teaching position; and experiences, attitudes, ideas, and leadership abilities that would benefit the cohort. To be considered for SIAM sponsorship, candidates must indicate their SIAM membership on their application. An MAA committee makes all Fellow selections, and the next application deadline is April 15, 2024. Visit the Project NExT website for more information.

Exceptional faculty members are invaluable assets to both SIAM and the larger scientific community as a whole. SIAM is excited to continue its sponsorship of Project NExT Fellows and contribute to excellence in applied math education for future generations of interdisciplinary thinkers.

Kathleen Kavanagh is a professor of mathematics at Clarkson University and the former Vice President for Education at SIAM.

David Elzinga is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. His research focuses on infectious disease spread in animals.

Erin Ellefsen is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at Earlham College, where she researches invasive species management.
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