NSF Recognizes Seniors

April 29, 2013

Amanda Nagy

Margaret Nichols
Margaret Nichols

Senior Margaret Nichols has won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, and double-degree senior Adam Birdsall has received honorable mention.

Nichols is completing senior honors work in mathematics under the supervision of Professor of Mathematics Susan Jane Colley. A mathematics major and computer science minor, she will pursue a PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago.

“This fellowship is a huge honor. I'm thrilled to begin research with the outstanding faculty at Chicago,” says Nichols.

In fall 2013, Nichols took on graduate-level study in preparation for the graduate course in commutative algebra at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. More recently, she has applied the commutative algebra she learned to the study of algebraic curves; her honors paper is an exposition on this topic.  

In summer 2011, Nichols participated in the Cornell Summer Mathematics Institute, where she took an algebra course and pursued a small research project. Last summer, she participated in the undergraduate summer research program at Williams College. 

Outside of the classroom, she has been involved in the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association and enjoys swing and blues dancing.

Colley says the competition for the NSF graduate research fellowship is fierce. “Now that she has the support, she will be able to pursue graduate work with a smaller teaching commitment. This will enable her to focus more completely on her studies and research.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in National Science Foundation-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Of more than 13,000 applications in 2013, the NSF made 2,000 award offers.

A double-degree student, Adam Birdsall is majoring in chemistry and piano performance with a minor in mathematics. Birdsall is a research assistant in chemistry professor Matthew Elrod’s lab, where he has studied the mechanisms by which organic compounds react to produce ground-level ozone and secondary organic aerosols in our atmosphere, both of which are harmful to human health and contribute to climate change. As part of the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, he has studied computational modeling of drug-protein interactions at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute with University of Minnesota associate professor William Gleason. Birdsall will be a candidate in the chemistry PhD program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, beginning in the fall.

Amanda Nagy is assistant director of media relations in the communications office.

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