CAM Featured Alumna: Suzanne Shontz

Suzanne Shontz

Class of 2005 (Advisor: Stephen A. Vavasis)
Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Kansas


  • Big 12 Faculty Fellowship, 2015
  • National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE), 2011
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2011
  • Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty Fellowship at Naval Research Laboratory, 2009

What made my CAM experience special?
There are two aspects of my CAM experience which made it special. First, the interdisciplinary coursework and research that was available to me as a CAM student was tremendous. I took courses in mathematics, computer science, operations research, and anatomy. My dissertation was on moving mesh algorithms which I applied to problems in cardiology and nonlinear elasticity. This type of research would not have been possible without the current model for Applied Mathematics at Cornell. This coursework and research helped me get to where I am today – a professor of both computer science and bioengineering – who conducts research in scientific computing as applied to medicine and other scientific applications. Second, the faculty at Cornell are top notch; they are experts in their disciplines. I learned a lot about applied mathematics and being a faculty member from them.

Advice for current/future CAM students:
My advice for current CAM students is to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that are available to you in regards to interdisciplinary research. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and branch out in new directions. I had a strong background in mathematics, a minimal background in computer science, and no background in bioengineering when I came to Cornell.  Yet pursuing research in scientific computing as applied to biomedical applications appealed to me, so I discussed this possibility with a prospective advisor (Stephen Vavasis). Not only did Steve agree to be my advisor, but he helped me come up with a plan (with committee input) to conduct research in this area.

My advice for prospective CAM students is to choose Cornell for your Ph.D.! It’s difficult to obtain such an interdisciplinary applied mathematics experience at other universities where the applied mathematics program lies within a single department. Upon graduating from Cornell, you can become a professor of mathematics or an applied discipline, conduct research in a government laboratory or medical school, serve as a program director for a federal agency, or do investment banking on Wall Street. My friends who graduated with their Ph.D. from CAM have all of these exciting careers and more!

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