Statistically Speaking

Statistically Speaking

Statistics Professor Bill Eddy & Shannon Gallagher

There is a high probability that Shannon Gallagher (S'14) will enjoy her summer.

The recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's mathematical sciences program is applying her skills on a project with researchers working on the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, or MIDAS. The project will assist the U.S. in preparing for, detecting and responding to infectious disease threats.  

Gallagher is working alongside Bill Eddy, the John C. Warner Professor of Statistics. 
"This is a large collaborative network of scientists who are trying to understand the spread of infectious diseases by doing computer simulations," Eddy explained. "And our little part is to develop statistical methods for generating synthetic populations of people in the U.S. that can then be fed into these disease models."

The project is housed in the University of Pittsburgh and involves collaboration between CMU's Department of Statistics and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

"Randomness and probabilities, such as those in infectious disease modeling, often have a very rigorous mathematical explanation behind them. This sort of mixture between theory and application is what I want to pursue in my career," Gallagher said.

Gallagher is staying at CMU to pursue her Ph.D. in statistics because of the university's interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and the faculty.

"The faculty really won me over, with both their liveliness and their diversity of research," Gallagher said. "Every statistics professor I have met in this department is energetic, friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their work. There is an air of enthusiasm around the department, and it is very contagious."

In addition to spending a summer working at the Department of Defense, Gallagher spent a semester studying mathematics in Budapest, Hungary, as part of the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program for North American students. She also participated in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the University of Minnesota.

At this year's commencement, Gallagher received the 2014 Judith A. Resnik Award, which honors the CMU alumna and NASA astronaut who was the second American woman in space.

The award is presented annually to an outstanding woman graduating in the sciences or engineering who plans to attend graduate school and whose academic performance, creativity and vision illustrate potential for high academic achievement in her field.

"Shannon is a talented and versatile young mathematician with a great future ahead of her," said Russ Walker, teaching professor of mathematical sciences at CMU.

Gallagher said she feels fortunate to have had a number of great role models while at CMU.

"Professors Rebecca Nugent, Rebecca Steorts and Judy Holdener have been instrumental in my decision to pursue science and math as a career," Gallagher said. "I hope to follow in these women's footsteps and pursue a field that I enjoy and can contribute to while helping younger students in the same way that my mentors have supported me."

Related Links: Department of Mathematical Sciences | Department of Statistics

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