by Cori Hilsgen
Christian Gaetz, son of Rick and Rose Gaetz of St. Joseph, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Gaetz is currently pursuing a Ph.D in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. He graduated from St. John’s Prep in 2012 and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2016.
Gaetz applied for the fellowship in fall. His application consisted of a proposal for an original research project he plans to carry out during his Ph.D program, a description of how his research and mentorship activities will benefit society, and information about his previous research and publications.
“I feel very fortunate to have received this fellowship, which will allow me to devote more of my time to research in mathematics,” Gaetz said. “I hope my research will have an impact in the field, and I plan to continue mentoring aspiring mathematicians and encouraging young people to enter quantitative fields.”
Since Gaetz won the fellowship, the amount of time he needs to spend as a teaching assistant is reduced and he can now focus more on research and the mentorship programs he is involved in such as MIT’s PRIMES: Program for Research in Mathematics, Engineering and Science for High School Students. The program is a free yearlong after-school program offering research projects and guided reading to high school students who live in the Boston area. Participants work with MIT researchers on unsolved problems in mathematics, computer science and computational biology.
The fellowship will cover the remaining three years of his five-year Ph.D program. Gaetz’s area of research is algebraic combinatorics.
Combinatorics is the study of the properties of finite systems and has applications in areas such as statistical physics and computer science. Algebraic combinatorics is often used to study these systems when they have a high degree of symmetry.
The competitive fellowship program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.
It’s the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.
Recipients receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost- of-education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.
Recipients are anticipated to become knowledgeable experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation’s technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.
Gaetz has one sister, Marisa, who also is currently attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and plans to major in mathematics. She has participated in several summer research programs for undergraduates that are also funded by the National Science Foundation through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates Sites program. An REU Site includes a group of about 10 undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, working closely with faculty and other researchers.
Last summer she worked on research at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and this year she plans to work on research at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.