SRP Creates Opportunities, Furthers Groundbreaking Research

Seattle Pacific University (SPU) is unusual; its student body is over two-thirds female and nearly 40% racial minorities. And as a smaller university, SPU cannot offer its science and mathematics students the same research opportunities as larger institutions.

So when Professor Wai Lau learned about the Sustainable Horizon Institute’s Sustainable Research Pathways (SRP) program, he knew it was a way to inspire confidence, broaden horizons and increase research opportunities.

“Some of my female students who are as good, if not better, than my male students, don’t feel like they are as good,” notes Professor Lau. “And my female students have fewer opportunities for research, which impacts how they think about their own research and graduate school.” In 2017, Professor Lau invited three of his female mathematics students to join him at Berkeley Lab as part of the summer SRP program. Together with Professor Lau, students Xiaoxue (Amy) Hu, Elise Bishoff, and Delsey Sabu worked on load balancing strategies for AMR applications with Dr. Ann Almgren in the Lab’s Center for Computational Sciences and Engineering.

Before starting her Bachelor’s degree, Elise had thought the only job she could do would be teaching math, and none of the women had considered working at a national lab before joining the SRP program. Now, in large part because of that summer research, Amy has completed a graduate degree in Quantitative Finance at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Delsey is working with a federal government agency, and Elise earned a M.S. in the Applied Mathematics graduate program at the University of Washington and is now working at Pacific Northwest National Lab.

The 2017 experience was so wonderful that Dr. Almgren and Professor Lau teamed up again in 2021 for another SRP that will benefit not only the students, but also other faculty. For this summer, Professor Lau brought in Dung Nguyen, a new assistant professor of mechanical engineering at SPU, as a collaborator. It is Professor Nguyen’s research developing simulation models of cancer cell migration that Dr. Almgren, Professors Lau and Nguyen, two female SPU students, and a recent UC Berkeley graduate are currently working on.

Like many SRP projects, this research will likely lead to publication with the students and faculty sharing credit. The research will also be presented by the students at SPU. In addition, the SPU students have joined the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and co-organized a SIAM mini-symposium to which they’ve invited Ngyuen and three other speakers.

“The SRP program has created opportunities for my students to do great research,” says Professor Lau. “This year, I have seen a growth in Emily and Amanda’s confidence. Amanda now sees herself in biomedical and aerospace engineering. It’s game changing.”

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