Published: April 5, 2021 By

Kate Bubar

Applied Mathematics graduate student Kate Bubar was recently awarded a fellowship through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The NSF GRFP was created to “help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students,” and will support Kate for the duration of the three year fellowship. 

Kate is currently working in the Larremore Lab and is a member of the IQ Biology program, interested broadly in the “tools and theory at the intersection of math and biology that have applications to pressing issues, like improving health and living standards around the world.” Currently, however, Kate’s research revolves around the question of vaccine prioritization, relating to the distribution of the COVID vaccine and beyond. Kate described her involvement in vaccine distribution:

“I was originally interested in this topic with regards to the COVID vaccines. Now, I am thinking about the mathematics underlying vaccine prioritization in general, and if we can make a generic plan for who is best to prioritize when there are scarce resources.”

In the NSF’s description of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, they emphasized that they provide support to graduate students in order to “maintain and advance the nation’s technological infrastructure.” Vaccine distribution, as exemplified during this pandemic, plays a critical part in technological infrastructure. 

With respect to the IQ Biology program, Kate emphasized that “the goals of the IQ Biology program go hand-in-hand with the goals of the GFRP”. Kate elaborated, explaining that science “is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and some of the best/most innovative technologies are created at the intersection of different scientific fields … The IQ Biology program gave [her] the confidence and ability to work effectively with scientists in a broad range of fields like immunology, ecology, public health and computer science.” 

The GRFP will help Kate in being able to participate in not only research initiatives, but outreach initiatives as well, saying that the GRFP “will enable me to dedicate more of my time to research, outreach and science communication. It will also make it easier for me to pursue new collaborations and opportunities since I have my own funding.” Kate mentioned that she is “passionate about various outreach initiatives to support diversity in STEM and improve science communication.”

The Department congratulates Kate on this phenomenal accomplishment!