Mathematics and music double major Anna Zittle ’22 is working as an EXCEL Scholar this summer to investigate how mathematical models can help scientists better understand the behavior of cancer tumors and even predict their future behavior. Zittle is collaborating with Allison Lewis, assistant professor of mathematics, who specializes in “uncertainty quantification,” which tries to determine how likely certain outcomes are if aspects of the system aren’t exactly known. This field has many real-world applications, including providing insights into biological processes, like tumor growth. 

Alison Lewis talking with Anna Zittle

Prof. Allison Lewis (left) is mentoring Anna Zittle ’23

For their current project, Zittle and Lewis are studying how uncertainty plays a part in predicting tumor response to radiotherapy. They consider how much data and what type of data is necessary to collect in order to stabilize model predictions and ensure model accuracy.  This, in turn, could help in a clinical setting to determine whether certain cancer treatment options are worth pursuing, or to motivate a change in dosage or frequency midcourse to achieve better treatment outcomes. “I’ve learned a great deal about the fields I’m studying, and I’ve solidified my plan to apply for grad school next year,” Zittle says. “Not only have I been exposed to a body of work within the world of statistical modeling, but I’ve learned best practices for researching topics in this field. I’m incredibly grateful to Prof. Lewis and the EXCEL Scholars program for making this experience possible, and I look forward to continuing this work for my thesis.”

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Undergraduate Research

EXCEL Scholars Program

Lafayette is dedicated to providing unique academic learning opportunities. Scholars work closely and collaboratively with faculty on significant research projects that hone critical-thinking and communication skills.

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Categorized in: Class of 2023, Faculty and Staff, Innovation and Research, Mathematics, STEM, Students