Gage Wins National Science Foundation Research Internship
Dustin Gage, who graduated with two bachelor’s degrees (in mathematics and computer science), completed a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program the summer after his junior year. The all-expense-paid research internship based at Central Michigan University gave Gage the opportunity to study cellular automata, a binary code mathematical construct that has real-world application in the study of epidemiology.
“The simplicity of cellular automata is in their composition, zeros and ones, but these state machines have the capacity to demonstrate a lot of complexity. They provide the underpinnings for how to model phenomena in the natural world from growth of crystals to the spread of bird flu and other diseases in populations,” he said.
With financial support from UMF, Gage delivered presentations on his cellular automata research at Indiana University and a mathematics conference in San Antonio, Texas. During his senior year, Gage won a UMF Wilson Scholarship to support his research into using the Java computer language to develop a Web-based fractal image program. (Annually, about 10 UMF students receive Wilson Scholarships of $800 to support travel and resource purchases associated with independent research projects.) Daniel Jackson, assistant professor of mathematics at UMF, is now using the fractal image-generating program as a teaching tool in his Complex Analysis class.
“That made my whole day,” said Gage, referring to how his research advisor is integrating the computer program into current course curriculum. “It’s gratifying to know other students are using the program for their projects in ways I never imagined.”
And for Gage, who now attends graduate school to become a mathematics professor, it’s that close interaction between students and faculty that made UMF the right choice. “With the open door policy, I could talk with professors anytime I wanted to. I was really taken by how much interest they took in me and my work. If I went to a larger school, I know I would have missed out on this component.”