NSF awards postdoctoral fellowship to math graduate

Matt Mills

Matt Mills, who earned his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May, was awarded a prestigious Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation in 2018. He will conduct his research at Michigan State.

Mills will study topics related to cluster algebras, a field of mathematics that is only 20 years old and lies in the intersection of algebra and combinatorics.

The $150,000 fellowship covers three years of full-time research in the sciences and is highly sought-after funding by students to support their transition from graduate studies to professional careers.

Mills, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at Kalamazoo College in Michigan before coming to Nebraska, said he will have the first year of the fellowship to focus solely on research and a reduced teaching load for the next two years of the fellowship.

“I started down this path when my advisor Professor Kyungyong Lee suggested a research project in this field in my graduate linear algebra course,” Mills said. Lee is one of the world's leading experts in cluster algebras, said Tom Marley, professor and chair of mathematics.

Not only did Lee provide the suggestion for the project that sparked Mills’ interest in the field, but he also provided funding for Mills to travel to various conferences early in his career.

“In fact, it was at one of these conferences that I found the research problem that became my thesis,” Mills said.

Mills becomes the third graduate student from the Department of Mathematics to receive one of these fellowships, and the first since 2000.

There were approximately 260 applicants for this year’s fellowship, and Mills was one of about 35 students to be chosen. The award is designed to give recipients flexibility in choosing research environments that will have maximal impact on their future scientific development.

- Alli Davis, Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education