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Math Student Receives Prestigious NASA Fellowship

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 9:57 am / September 21, 2015

HeatherWilber200x200Heather Wilber, a graduate student from Caldwell who is working toward a master of science in mathematics, has been awarded a NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) fellowship to support her research. Her faculty mentor is Grady Wright, associate professor of mathematics.

Wilber’s project is titled “Transforming Computation in Spherical Geometries: Fast and Accurate Algorithms using Fourier Series and Low Rank Approximation.”

I’m thrilled to have received the ISGC award, and am especially appreciative of Dr. Grady Wright and Dr. Alex Townsend (from MIT), who have guided my work, demonstrated what it is to do research in mathematics, and introduced me to many interesting research problems and perspectives,” Wilber said.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had up to this point, primarily facilitated through Boise State and my many mentors in the math department.”

Wilber’s research is focused on numerical computations with functions and data on the surface of a sphere. Functions on a sphere arise in many applications, such as heliophysics, climate modeling, geodynamics and astrophysics. Researchers in these fields require algorithms that allow them to represent and compute with these functions in a highly accurate and computationally efficient manner.

“The design of such algorithms has been a classically challenging problem,” Wilber said. “Our work uses features of symmetry related to the sphere, as well as low-rank approximation strategies, to provide new and fast methods of computation.”

Wilber also is working on the design of an open-source software package that provides an easy interface for users interested in data on the sphere.