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November 09, 2022

By Rebecca Mohr, Capital University Communications Manager

Capital Student Uses Math to Create a Vaccination Strategy for Developing Nations

When Hasset Negussie, a mathematics major, started at Capital a little over a year ago, she was unsure of where her future was going to take her. As an international student from Ethiopia, she experienced the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in both her home country and the United States.

Through the Summer Scholars fellowship at Capital, Negussie was determined to use her unique experience to understand how the distribution of vaccines could be improved for all developing nations.

“During COVID, my country was really affected and had limited resources. There was a high concentration of vaccinated people in the center of the country, but the rural areas did not have the same opportunities. It seemed like all the public health resources were focused on urban areas, and that really bothered me,” said Negussie.

During summer 2022, Negussie was looking for an internship or research opportunity and was encouraged by her advisor to apply for a Summer Scholars fellowship.

“This is my first research experience and it was a good one. I worked closely with my mentor, but I felt like I was really doing it on my own,” said Negussie. “I didn’t have any background knowledge about my research topic. It was just an interest of mine, but now I can say I have coding and programming experience just from this one research opportunity.”

Capital offers a prestigious Summer Scholars fellowship to undergraduate students interested in participating in academic research during the summer semester. The fellowship is a 10-week experience where students work one-on-one with their mentor to complete a research project. At the end of the summer, students submit a written paper and present an oral presentation to their peers and university leadership.

“My project modeled a vaccination strategy focused on developing nations specifically. I looked at the general spread of disease, and instead of focusing on just one area, I mapped out how resources should be distributed in areas that have a high concentration of infection. From there, the resources should move across the country,” said Negussie. “My project was an example of how we can create conditional modeling to improve human lives.”

Through the research project, Negussie worked very closely with her mentor, Paula Federico, Ph.D., associate professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.

“I learned to not be afraid and how important it is to stay motivated. This project was my first step into research, and it was a big thing for me,” said Negussie. “The process really helped me imagine what kind of career I might pursue after I graduate.

Negussie hopes to graduate from Capital in 2025 and become a biomedical engineer.

To read more about Capital University’s Summer Scholars program, go to https://www.capital.edu/academics/services-and-programs/undergraduate-research/summer-scholarsprogram/.

To learn more about Capital’s Mathematics Department, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/majors-and-minors/mathematics/.