Two Ph.D. candidates from Rice University's Department of Statistics were recently awarded fellowships through the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation.
Sarah Robinson was selected to receive a 2019 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). It’s a very competitive fellowship, with more than 12,000 applications and only 2,000 awards. Out of the 2,000 awards, only six were given in Robinson’s field of biostatistics.
Robinson works with Christine Peterson at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, developing methods to model and infer the interactions of microbes in cancer patients over time.
Speaking about her work, Robinson said that the presence of certain microbial populations can significantly alter the health of organisms, plants, and humans, but the underlying mechanisms and factors that affect these shifts are largely unknown. The microbiome is constantly changing, so looking at their interactions over time is important in understanding how microbial populations survive within and interact with their host.
“The microbiome and mycobiome are relatively new,” said Robinson. “So it's really cool to work on methods to help make discoveries in the field, especially those that will have a positive impact on health treatments.”
Carly Fagnant received a 2019 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship Award. She was selected from nearly 3,000 applications. Around 200 fellows are chosen each year, an average of 10 of these from the field of mathematics.
Her research involves extreme rainfall statistics in Houston. Working with Katherine Ensor, Noah G. Harding Professor of Statistics, they have been collaborating with the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEVE) Department to re-evaluate extreme rainfall levels and floodplains after Hurricane Harvey. The project started as one of those funded by the Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (HERE) grants.
“This work is important to me because flooding is a large issue in our greater community,” said Fagnant. “We are seeing more intense storms more often, and changing rainfall extremes can affect how floodplains are drawn. In collaboration with the CEVE department, we hope to produce results that we can bring to the city of Houston to inform strategic planning.”