Caleb Hostetler (front row, left) with fellow researchers in fields of math, physics and chemistry, at Carnegie Mellon University this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Senior participates in summer mathematics research at Carnegie Mellon

Senior Caleb Hostetler already has an extensive list of accomplishments – in April 2022, he and two other students from Eastern Mennonite University won the 2022 international Kryptos Codebreaking Competition – and this summer, he added mathematics research at Carnegie Mellon University to his resume.

Hostetler participated in the Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute undergraduate research program, working with a group of four students studying a mathematical game. The research has applications in the mathematical fields of graph theory and linear algebra.

Hostetler applied to over 15 mathematics Research Experiences for Undergraduates (here’s the comprehensive website he used), and was accepted to Carnegie Mellon. He then had a say in which of the four areas of mathematics research he would work.

The experience provided insight into the world of academic mathematics, Hostetler said. “In addition to exposure to the world of academia, I also built valuable connections with people that would be very helpful if I decided to pursue research further.” 

Participants presented their research, and attended panels with grad students, postdoctoral students, and other professionals in the field.

Mathematics and computer science professor Daniel Showalter recognizes this experience as a prestigious and competitive accomplishment. “Caleb’s selection for the Carnegie Mellon REU allowed him to spend the summer in one of the top five computer science departments in the world and positions him well for graduate school should he choose to attend,” Showalter said.

A personal highlight, Hostetler said, was talking with the other members of his research group about math outside of research. 

“Whenever I talk to someone who doesn’t love math as much as I do, the conversation generally moves quickly to some other subject. I don’t blame them, math isn’t the most interesting topic if you don’t really enjoy it,” Hostetler said.

He remembers one conversation about favorite mathematicians and preferred kinds of math while walking back to their apartment after dinner. “I’ll admit, it is a pretty nerdy conversation to have, but it was genuine,” Hostetler said. “It was so cool to be in an environment where everyone was as excited about mathematics as I was, and to not have to feel restrained when talking about the things I love.”

The group also spent time outside of research settings, doing team-building activities such as rafting, visiting the Kennywood amusement park, and going to the Pittsburgh zoo.

In addition to research, over the summer, Hostetler enjoyed working as an engineering intern at Ventrac, a tractor and equipment company. He isn’t sure what is next for him, but math research and graduate school are high on his list of options.

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