Montemayor selected for SIAM-Simons research program

Photo Credit: Layla Montemayor
Wed, 05/03/2023 - 17:05

Majors: Mathematics
Hometown: The Colony, TX

Year in school: Junior

This summer Layla Montemayor will be participating in the SIAM-Simons Undergraduate Summer Research Program.

She talks about the program and her experience:

There are five research sites across the country. One other student and I will be working with two professors in mathematical oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. The program covers all costs and includes a trip to the Flatiron Institute in Manhattan and attendance at the SIAM Annual Meeting in the summer of 2024 to present our work. Because this is their first year receiving funding, I’m a member of the program’s first cohort. This is a great opportunity and I’m very excited!

This project will focus on analyzing clinical data and developing mathematical models to identify novel biomarkers for cancer treatment personalization. We are situated in the unique Integrated Mathematical Oncology (IMO) department at Moffitt Cancer Center, the only math department within an NCI-designated cancer center. They were looking for someone with a background in calculus, computer programming experience, and curiosity and drive. The IMO is a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative department with researchers from various backgrounds.

How did you learn about the program?
I received an email with information from Professor Petronela Radu who I have been doing research with. It was also featured in the weekly math newsletter.

What have you already done in terms of mathematics, undergraduate research, and other activities that you feel made you a good candidate for this program?
They asked me for a list of the math courses that I have already completed, and knowing that math research tends to require completion of proof courses, I believe my completion of "MATH 325" was important. I also highlighted my experience in the "MATH 435" course and my previous research experience at UNL and in an REU. I think my involvement in things across campus also helped, and I wrote about my involvement in Math Club and the Association of Women in Mathematics.

Anything else you want to share about the program?
The program as five sites across the US, and I will be at the University of South Florida doing mathematical biology research about cancer. The program is fully funded, including housing and meals. I will receive a pretty generous stipend for participating in the program, and I will get paid weekly. The program's sites range from 6 to 8 weeks, and I will be working for 8 weeks this summer.

The application seemed very relaxed compared to the REU program that I applied for last summer, and I think the experience of applying for previous programs really helped with making this application. I also feel that having really strong references and experience is super helpful when applying.

What gets you excited about math?
I started as a computer science major when I came to UNL, and I didn't like the coding work very much. I enjoyed the mathematics that I was doing as part of the CS major, but I didn't think I could major in mathematics as it wouldn't lead to a good paying job or career. My computer science advisor at the time, Dr. Ann Koopmann, was the person who convinced me to switch to mathematics.

Favorite math class or instructor so far?
My favorite course was "MATH 208H: Honors Calculus III" with Professor Mark Walker. I loved the course from start to finish, and it helped me to know that the math major was the right choice for me. It was my first fully in-person math course at UNL since I started at UNL during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are you excited about doing after graduation?
Right now, I plan to apply to go to graduate school in applied mathematics starting in the fall 2024 semester, and I also plan to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program. I have already started the process of making these applications, and I will work on them in my spare time this summer and during the fall 2023 semester. I have been looking at graduate schools in North Carolina after meeting a UNL alumni at the Nebraska Undergraduate Conference for Women in Mathematics who is in graduate school in North Carolina at Duke right now. I have a trip this summer to visit NC State University.

What is a goal you have accomplished as a Husker?
My goal coming into college was to get out meet people, and I feel like I have accomplished this goal by joining Math Club, the Association for Women in Mathematics, and the College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors.

What do you wish you would have known when you started as a math major that you know now?
I wish I knew how welcoming the people in the Math Department would be and how easy it would be to connect with the available resources. After connecting with a few people in the department, I have been connected with a lot of opportunities by these people as they really care about my success.

What do you hope to cross off your “bucket list” in the next few years?
I want to go abroad at some point. I would love to travel or study abroad or perhaps present or attend a conference abroad.