URI math student + NSF grant = research experience

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KINGSTON, R.I. — April 23, 2007 — Instead of working eight weeks at the pro shop at the Newport County Club this summer, Bridget Druken, a junior at the University of Rhode Island, will be spending time with math pros at San Diego State University.

Supported by a $3,000 National Science Foundation grant, the Newport resident will take part in an eight-week program designed to give its participants a clear understanding of the world of mathematical research through firsthand experience.

Druken will be in a 5-person team composed of undergraduates from other colleges and universities and high school teachers. The team will be led by a graduate student and advised by Professor Peter Salamon.

The research group will focus on phages, viruses that predate bacteria. “Mathematical modeling of diseases seems like an ever-growing field of study to which I can apply my math skills,” says Druken.

Druken’s bio-mathematical interest may be inherited. Her father, Patrick, is a tax preparer and good with numbers. Her mother, Valerie, is a nurse. Both are two of her biggest cheerleaders. “My parents have always encouraged me and my four sisters to be the best possible at anything, whether it be school, sports, or chores around the house. They are supportive of any educational endeavor I choose to pursue. For that I am thankful and lucky.”

The URI honor student has known she wanted to study math since she was in 7th grade at Thompson Middle School. “I had awesome math teachers throughout middle school and high school,” Druken says. “Elizabeth Silvia, Eric Thomas, and Rick Fullerton were math teachers I admired and wanted to be like.”

Druken helps pay for her college education by mentoring in URI’s Academic Enhancement Center, primarily reviewing finite math for her peers.

She intends to pursue math in graduate school. This summer’s research experience will help her decide if researching mathematical biology, mathematical modeling of diseases and the human body, is something she would like to continue.

“Working with other students and professors in teams, learning more about my major and potential jobs areas, gaining mathematical maturity and traveling to another beautiful area of the United States is what I would consider a well-spent summer,” she says of the opportunity.

She was offered her pick of two NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates. “It was a tough choice,” she said. “I would have liked to do either of them.”

When the project is complete, this young pro will finish out the summer working at the Newport County Club, something she’s done for the past five summers.

Return to view other stories about our 2007 scholars.

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.