For Immediate Release — March 31, 2005


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516



GENESEO, N.Y. — Two State University of New York at Geneseo students have been named recipients of the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for their achievements and potential in the fields of biology and mathematics.

Juniors Scott Meckler and Amy Zielinski were among 320 undergraduate sophomores and juniors selected from a pool of 1,091 nominees throughout the United States. The Goldwater scholarships recognize academic achievement in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering.

Meckler, a mathematics major, intends to pursue his doctorate in mathematics and a career in which he can solve problems. Zielinski, a biology major, intends to pursue her doctorate/medical degree in oncology and a career conducting cancer research (disease dynamics) in an academic medical center.

Meckler and Zielinski are the 12th and 13th SUNY Geneseo students to be named Goldwater Scholars since 1992.

Meckler and Zielinski are among seven SUNY students to receive the scholarship this year. The other SUNY recipients are enrolled at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Albany and SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica Rome.

The scholarships, announced in March, are for the 2005-06 school year. Meckler and Zielinski will receive one-year scholarships totaling $7,500 apiece, to be applied toward tuition, fees, books, room and board.

Meckler, 20, from East Amherst, N.Y., spent last summer at the University of Utah studying inverse tomography, examining methods of discovering the composition of an object through observing it just from one side. This research could be applied toward ways of looking for ore and oil underground without the act of digging. This summer, he will conduct more research on dynamic equations at the University of Nebraska. Meckler said his summer work is in the form of Research Experience for Undergraduates.

He credits SUNY Geneseo mathematics professor Olympia Nicodemi for introducing him to Research Experience for Undergraduates programs last year. He decided to apply to some programs and was accepted into the Utah program. The Nebraska program also is a Research Experience for Undergraduates program. In addition, Meckler said he had taken a course titled Inverse Problems & Applications with Andrzej Kedzierawski, associate professor of mathematics, which piqued his interest in the type of math he used during his summer research.

Meckler plans to study abroad in Italy in the fall and return to Geneseo for the spring semester. He plans to pursue his Ph.D. in mathematics and a career in math research.

"I do know that I want a career in which I can solve problems," he said. "Hopefully, I will find one in which I’m solving problems that can actually benefit humanity."

Zielinski, 20, from Elma, N.Y., has been working with her classmate Jackie Dresch since their sophomore year studying the transmission of influenza. Their mentors are Gregg Hartvigsen, associate professor of biology, and Christopher Leary, the Spencer Roemer Professor of Mathematics.

The students used a computer to create networks made up of nodes (the hosts) and edges (connections between hosts who know one another). Then, they vaccinate a certain percentage of hosts using one of five strategies and then infect the population with influenza. Based on the percentage of the population that becomes infected, they evaluate the efficacy of each strategy.

"The goal of this research is to gain a complete understanding of influenza disease dynamics," said Zielinski. "We are also attempting to determine whether it is more beneficial to distribute vaccines randomly or to targeted individuals."

"I think this research really sparked my interest because although I’m a biology major, I have always been interested in math. Doing this research, I get to pursue two fields that interest me."

Zielinski plans to enroll in an M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Buffalo, where she will continue to study disease dynamics, perhaps focusing on cancer rather than infectious diseases.

"My tentative future plan is to become an oncologist and combine a clinical practice with cancer research in an academic medical center," she said.

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