Finding solutions through math and mentoring

July 17, 2023

Students from across the nation — including Dearborn Wolverine Louisa Hoback — worked with UM-Dearborn faculty mentors during the campus’ Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Mathematical Analysis and Applications program.

A group photo of faculty and students at UM-Dearborn's REU site in 2023.

In the medical field, mathematics is essential to understanding outcomes. There’s modeling when it comes to predicting the success rate of treatment, dosage in prescriptions, mathematical functions in CT scans and X-rays and more.

UM-Dearborn senior Louisa Hoback wants to work in a medical-focused field to make a difference in people’s lives. At first, she studied chemistry. Then, after taking time off in college to focus on her own medical concerns, she returned to campus and took mathematics courses to fulfill a few degree requirements. That’s when Hoback’s career goals started to come into focus.

“It’s very interesting how many mathematical applications there are in biology, chemistry and biochemistry,” said Hoback, an Allen Park resident who is majoring in mathematics and minoring in chemistry. “Until I took those classes, I didn’t know the extent that math was involved. But once I realized it, I was excited to learn more.” Noticing Hoback’s work ethic and natural ability with numbers, two of her mathematics professors, Yulia Hristova and Aditya Viswanathan, encouraged her to work with them on a research project that — in simple terms — looks at reducing the distortion and improving the clarity of medical imaging results. She spent the last year working as a teaching assistant and research assistant.

To gain even more research experience with math, Hoback recently attended a prestigious undergraduate program where she worked on projects with other exceptional students from across the country.

As part of the eight-week UM-Dearborn Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Mathematical Analysis and Applications,19 student participants worked with UM-Dearborn faculty mentors on a variety of mathematics research projects. Involved UM-Dearborn faculty include John Clifford, Yulia Hristova, Keshav Pokhrel, Aditya Viswanathan, Alan Wiggins, Tian An Wong and Yunus Zeytuncu. The UM-Dearborn REU program concluded Friday, July 14, with a regional REU conference hosted on campus. CASL Dean Dagmar Budikova welcomed the crowd that included student researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley and more.

Mathematics Professor Zeytuncu, who initiated the UM-Dearborn REU a decade ago with Associate Professor Hyejin Kim, said the Dearborn REU — which is funded by the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency — has grown significantly. “With us hosting a site, Dearborn students have an opportunity to take part in an REU on their campus each summer.”

Each student admitted to the REU program received a stipend, room and board near campus, and an expanded professional network of mentors and peers. In addition to UM-Dearborn’s Hoback, this summer’s program hosted students from Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, UM-Ann Arbor and others. For more information about the UM-Dearborn REU program, contact Yunus Zeytuncu.

Hoback, who graduates in the fall and is exploring graduate school options, said the REU experience went beyond networking and research. She said it was also a masterclass in team collaboration and in presenting complicated information — and that while her REU project focused on abstract number theory, the experience illuminated the connections between various areas of mathematics. Hoback said she’s grateful for the opportunity to attend the program — and to all the UM-Dearborn professors who have shaped her journey so far.

“I recommend doing research and the REU program to any math student who wants to broaden their horizons. I’d say the same about someone who is considering UM-Dearborn,” Hoback said. “I chose UM-Dearborn because I wanted a close-to-home university. I liked that it was U-M, but with class sizes where I could personally connect with my professors. Because my professors got to know me and reached out with opportunities, I’ve had experiences that help me better understand how I can improve processes in the medical field and be successful in my future career.”

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.