Campus Life

UWF mathematics student spends summer at Harvard

Ruth Ashley, a senior mathematics student at the University of West Florida, spent the summer at Harvard University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates internship program, an opportunity she described as “a dream come true.”

For 10 weeks during the Summer 2013 semester, Ashley worked at the Institute for Applied Computational Science as part of a pilot program that develops opportunities for students to apply mathematics to solve real-world problems proposed by industry sponsors. She worked with two other students for Quantam Reservoir Impact, a value-creation agency for the upstream oil and gas industry based in Houston, Texas. Her team’s objective was to create a data-driven model to predict the best places to drill in the Southern region of Texas.

“It excites me, knowing that I have real world experience in data analysis now,” she said.

Ruth Ashley
Ruth Ashley

Ashley, a John. C. Pace Honors Scholar, said the costs of the trip were funded completely using an off-campus educational experience stipend that is granted to all Pace Scholars.

During the Spring 2013 semester at UWF, Ashley completed a proseminar in queuing theory with assistant professor Dr. Anthony Okafor, which engaged her in mathematical and statistical research above standard course materials. She credits that, as well as her involvement in the UWF Honors Program, for providing her with the skills needed to succeed in the Harvard internship program.

“After successfully completing my proseminar, I felt more confident in my ability to do independent research,” she said. “Participating in the Honors Program has also strengthened my team-working skills, which was helpful as I worked very closely with two students for 40 hours a week throughout the summer internship.”

Ashley will graduate in December 2013, and she said her plan is to search for a job in her field, utilizing the experience she gained at UWF and Harvard.

“I encourage students in STEM disciplines to participate in undergraduate research programs,” she said. “I’m so thankful that I was able to represent UWF at Harvard, and I know the experience has given me an edge for future career opportunities. This summer was a dream.”