Carnegie Mellon University
Student Successes

Student Successes

photo of Jillian Jaycox

Jillian Jaycox Wins Churchill Scholarship

Jillian Jaycox is going the distance. The competitive runner’s shoes are pounding the pavement in the United Kingdom, where she’s spending a year at the University of Cambridge. The recent biological sciences graduate received a 2016 Churchill Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards for studying abroad in the United Kingdom. Jaycox is pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Medical Science at Cambridge’s Department of Medicine as a member of Ken Smith’s research group, which is investigating a new prognostic biomarker for autoimmune diseases. “This work will increase our ability to study and guide treatment for certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, which are complex and heterogeneous. Two patients with the same diagnosis can have two very different outcomes, and it is important to understand exactly why this occurs and how we can predict it,” Jaycox said. Jaycox is no stranger to this type of research. Working in the lab of University of Pittsburgh Immunology Professor and MCS alumna Sarah Gaffen, Jaycox studied the immune response to bloodstream fungal infections, and co-authored three peer-reviewed journal articles on that work. Following her Churchill experience, Jaycox plans to apply to M.D.-Ph.D. programs and pursue a career as a physician-scientist in immunology.

photo of Joshua Brakensiek

Joshua Brakensiek Wins Goldwater Scholarship

During his first two years at Carnegie Mellon, junior mathematical sciences major Joshua Brakensiek has been busy. He’s conducted astrostatistical research with faculty working in statistics and cosmology, and theoretical computer science research with faculty in the School of Computer Science. He flew to Japan to present his theoretical computer science research at the 31st Conference on Computational Complexity. Brakensiek was also a member of the CMU team at the 2015 Mathematical Association of America’s William Lowell Putnam Competition, placing among the top 16 of the 4,275 students who took the Putnam test. That’s all in addition to carrying a full course load each semester. It’s no surprise, then, that Brakensiek was one of 252 college sophomores and juniors nationwide to receive a Barry Goldwater Scholarship to support his pursuit of a research career in mathematics and theoretical computer science.

photo of Clive Newstead at Celebration of Education

From left: Amy Burkert, vice provost for education; Clive Newstead; Will Frankenstein (EPP) Graduate Student Service Award; and Farnam Jahanian, provost.

Clive Newstead Wins Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate Student Teaching Award

Clive Newstead, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and this year’s winner of Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate Student Teaching Award, is a bit of a legend. Students often attend his recitations even though they aren’t assigned to his section, and many of his former students still seek out his help long after they have had him as a TA in class.

Newstead is known for going above and beyond to make sure his students understand complicated and often confusing mathematical concepts. He has a natural ability to explain extremely complex ideas in a way that makes them simple to comprehend. And his passion for math has a profound impact on his students. “His enthusiasm for and love of math reminded me each day why I came to CMU and why I want to continue studying mathematics,” wrote first-year student Allison Klenk.

photo of Rebecca Alford

Rebecca Alford Named Hertz Fellow

When she was a child, Rebecca Alford discovered something about herself that would shape her future in more ways than one. She was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that results in visual impairment, a condition that was a bit of a medical mystery. With time, “I realized that I did not need to wait for other scientists to find the answers. I could find them myself,” said Alford, a 2016 chemistry B.S. graduate. While in high school, she created a computational method to classify genetic mutations as disruptive or non-disruptive to the function of membrane proteins. At Carnegie Mellon, she conducted research at Johns Hopkins University, where she helped to develop a new computational method for modeling membrane proteins. Now, she’s a Hertz Fellow pursuing her Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Her ultimate goal is to become a professor and lead her own research group that will build computational tools to explore the connection between genetic sequence, protein structure and function, and disease. “The Hertz Fellowship will provide me with the creative freedom to do fundamental research in the field, bring my ideas to life, and work toward doing science that will hopefully impact the public,” she said.

photo of Po-Shen Loh and Putnam Seminar students

CMU Places Second in 2015 Putnam Math Competition

On Dec. 5, 2015, 4,275 American and Canadian undergraduates from 554 institutions participated in the Mathematical Association of America’s 76th William Lowell Putnam Competition, the definitive mathematics competition for undergraduate students in North America. The Carnegie Mellon team—Linus Hamilton, Thomas Swayze and Joshua Brakensiek—placed second. Additionally, 41 CMU students scored among the top 470, the second most of any university. This marks the fifth consecutive year the CMU team has placed among the top five teams, and the third consecutive year in which they had the second most top-ranking students, proving the university is home to many of the nation’s best “mathletes.”