April 19, 2021

By Alaina Uricheck ’24

Elizabeth Balas ’23, a mathematics major from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has been accepted into four notoriously competitive Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs funded by the National Science Foundation.

Balas was accepted into programs at Ithaca College, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Texas State University, and will attend the University of Wisconsin La Crosse for an in-person program focused on ecological modeling of the Mississippi River Basin, which Balas said is a “mix of my interests in math and biological subjects, and would overall strengthen my interest in applied mathematics.”

Balas believes the program will “benefit my future career aspirations because it will expose me to applied math topics that I have not seen in undergrad so far and will hopefully motivate me further to pursue this topic in graduate school.”

The National Science Foundation funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU program. An REU site consists of approximately ten undergraduate students who work in the research programs at the host institution. Each student is assigned a specific research project, where they work closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.

Balas found out about the REU opportunities through her advisor, Alathea Jensen, assistant professor math and computer science, who encouraged Balas to apply and wrote one of the recommendation letters Balas needed.

Jensen estimates she has written recommendation letters for 15 to 20 students since arriving at Susquehanna three years ago. Balas is the first student who was accepted into any REU program, let alone four.

“I was shocked and elated when I heard of Liz’s acceptance into four programs,” Jensen said.

“I’m extremely grateful for my professors and wonderful advisor, Dr. Jensen, who cares so much about her students,” Balas said.