Math graduate, Scott Wolf, to attend Princeton University for PhD

Mathematics major Scott Wolf will graduate in Spring 2019. Wolf was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Photo by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock senior has been selected as a 2019 recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Scott Wolf, 19, of White Hall, Arkansas, will graduate May 11 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with minors in history and English. In the fall, Wolf is headed to New Jersey to pursue a Ph.D. in quantitative and computational biology from Princeton University.

“Earning the NSF fellowship was a huge accomplishment,” Wolf said. “I had a lot of support from my professors to put together an application of that caliber.”

The fellowship provides Scott with three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period through a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the student’s graduate institution.

The program recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Launched in 1952 shortly after Congress established the National Science Foundation, the fellowship program represents the nation’s oldest continuous investment in the U.S. STEM workforce.

Since he was homeschooled with his three brothers, Wolf began taking dual-enrollment classes at Southeast Arkansas College at age 14 and graduated high school at age 15. At 16, Wolf was attending UA Little Rock as a recipient of the Chancellor’s Academic Distinction Scholarship.

“UA Little Rock is close to home, and a bunch of people in my department have been able to utilize industry ties and take advantage of our connections with technology companies and other businesses in Little Rock,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of coursework, research, and industry opportunities.”

While at UA Little Rock, Wolf’s work and research opportunities have included working as an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and a tutor in the Mathematics Assistance Center. He has completed internships at Inuvo Inc. and Entergy. Wolf has also studied abroad three times. He spent the summer of 2016 studying at the Chinese Language Institute at Xiamen Huaxia University and has taken faculty-led trips to South Korea and China.

Wolf discovered a love of bioinformatics while completing research in the Systems Genomics Laboratory at the MidSouth Bioinformatics Center with Dr. Mary Yang, the center’s director.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to do research in bioinformatics with Dr. Yang,” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have any experience in the area. Learning how to interact in a lab was invaluable when it came to going to Princeton and moving forward with research.”

With a new interest in bioinformatics, Wolf sought out summer research opportunities and found the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. Last summer, he conducted research at Princeton in quantitative and computational biology, the field he will now pursue as a doctoral student.

“I intend to explore how the fundamentals of mathematics, computer science, and statistics intersect with physiology, genomics, and neuroscience to give insight into complex biological systems,” he said. “I am particularly interested in how complex behavioral patterns can be quantified and how they emerge at the individual and group level.”

Looking back on his time at UA Little Rock, Wolf is thankful to professors who served as mentors in his academic pursuits as well as those who lifted his spirits in times of distress.

“There have been all kinds of people who have helped me at UA Little Rock. You get research mentors who are critically important and community members, who aren’t formal mentors, but are there to talk to you and have some equity in you as a person,” Wolf said. “Someone like Dr. James Levernier from the English Department who goes out of the way to tell you to pursue your passion and take advantage of all the resources you can. When you are beaten down over a piece of research you can’t understand, they are there to sympathize with you. In the math department, there is a sense of community I haven’t seen elsewhere. I know the professors, and I can talk to them. UA Little Rock has been a good community for me.”

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