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Sources: Laura Garcia,;
and Dan Volok, 785-532-0641,
News release prepared by: Greg Tammen, 785-532-6415,

Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010


MANHATTAN -- In eight weeks Laura Garcia has achieved what most college students only imagine accomplishing by the end of their graduate career.

Garcia, a senior at Grinnell College in Iowa, came to Kansas State University this summer to pursue graduate-level mathematics research. The findings of her work will be published in a scientific journal.

"It's really exciting to think of what I've done in just a short time," said Garcia, who is from Los Angeles, Calif. She attributes the outcome to her participation in the K-State department of mathematics' 2010 summer undergraduate mathematics research program, an offshoot of the National Science Foundation's research experiences for undergraduates program.

At K-State Garcia worked on a project with teammate Jeremy Garcia, a senior at the University of Northern Colorado, and under the mentorship of Dan Volok, assistant professor of mathematics. She assisted Volok with a portion of his research on solving a statistical prediction problem related to efficient handling of digital signals.

"Basically our project was just a small part of the theory of digital signal processing," Garcia said.

Although just a portion of a larger equation, the team's findings will contribute to a new conceptual approach on how digital signals are analyzed and processed. Their findings can be used in data compression -- for example, sending a picture over the Internet to a cell phone; image recognition -- extracting from remotely sensed images information about oil plumes' location within the ocean; and other applications.

Marianne Korten, professor of mathematics and program coordinator, said these summer undergraduate research programs are so important because they target largely untapped populations in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, such as women, minorities and first-generation college students. Consequently, these students have the opportunity to concentrate on original research projects while attending graduate school panels, faculty talks and Graduate Record Exam prep workshops.

For the past 15 years the National Science Foundation has funded various fields of study at K-State that support undergraduates in obtaining summer research experiences and that stimulate the students' interest in graduate education and research careers. In addition to the mathematics research program, K-State currently has ongoing summer research experiences for undergraduates programs in biology, chemistry, physics and chemical engineering.