Georgia Tech Doctoral Candidate Named Marshall Sherfield Fellow
Prestegious Honor Awarded By Marshall Commission
Posted December 16, 2009 | Atlanta, GA
Georgia Tech doctoral candidate Mitchel Keller has been awarded a Marshall Sherfield Fellowship for the 2010 academic year. Keller is Georgia Techâ€™s third fellowship winner, making the Institute the nationâ€™s top-producer of Marshall Sherfield fellows. He is also the first mathematician to receive the honor. Up to two honorees are selected each year for their exceptional character, intellect, purpose, communication skills, research acumen, and ability to make a significant contribution to society.
Established in 1998 by the Marshall Commission, the Marshall Sherfield Fellowship encourages the academic advancement of intellectually gifted young Americans, who have recently received a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, through the opportunity to work with the United Kingdomâ€™s most innovative scientists and engineers. Fellows will conduct research over a one-to-two-year period at a college or university in the U.K. The fellowship also seeks to strengthen mutual respect and collaboration between the U.K. and the United States.
Keller plans to study mathematics at London School of Economics. â€œI applied for a Marshall Sherfield Fellowship because of the opportunity to work with a leader in my area of mathematics in the United Kingdom,â€ said Keller. â€œI plan to conduct research in combinatorics, particularly the combinatorics of partially ordered sets with Professor G.R. Brightwell,â€ he said. â€œI chose London School of Economics because of Professor Brightwell's reputation in this area of mathematics as well as the overall strength of the math department in discrete mathematics,â€ said Keller.
Research in partially ordered sets could offer critical solutions to important issues facing the global community, specifically improving healthcare or encouraging fiscal responsibility in large organizations. â€œPartial orders arise in many settings, such as comparing the severity of ailments of hospital patients for triage purposes or making purchasing decisions by comparing complex systems where multiple factors enter the decision making process,â€ said Keller.
Kellerâ€™s interest in mathematics began as an undergraduate at North Dakota State University. â€œI became interested in combinatorics because I started my undergraduate career as a computer science major and saw combinatorics as the mathematics most applicable to computer science,â€ Keller said. â€œAfter a while, I realized that the mathematics was more interesting to me than computer science.â€
Impressed by the strength of Georgia Techâ€™s School of Mathematics in the area of combinatorics, Keller entered the Institute in 2004. â€œI became interested in my specific research area when I took a graduate course from my advisor, Dr. Tom Trotter, during my first year of graduate school,â€ Keller said.
â€œGeorgia Tech has given me many opportunities to develop as a researcher. Iâ€™ve been fortunate to collaborate with fellow students and my Ph.D advisor on research,â€ Keller said. â€œThese skills should be helpful as I start working with new individuals. Working and studying in the diverse environment here has also helped prepare me to conduct research in another country with scholars from around the world.â€
Kellerâ€™s research skills have also helped him form an interdisciplinary interest in the history of mathematics. â€œHistory is one of my personal interests, especially political and scientific history,â€ Keller said. For the past seven years, Keller has been involved with the Mathematics Genealogy Project. â€œThe project records the history of mathematics by recording doctoral advising relationships [and mentorship relationships for those without doctorates].â€ Keller said. â€œWhile the Project has very complete records from some countries, the records from U.K. Universities are incomplete in some cases. Spending an extended time in the U.K. would allow me to visit a number of universities to request help completing the records to better reflect the importance of the British contribution to the development of modern mathematics.â€
Keller also used his time at Georgia Tech to give back to his community of peers. Among other honors, Keller served as the Graduate Student Government Association President, received the Helen E. Grenga Friend of the Graduate Student Award, and was named Outstanding Teaching Assistant. â€œFrom the first moment you meet Mitch, you sense that he a special kind of person. He has extraordinary levels of enthusiasm for everything he does,â€ said Kellerâ€™s advisor, Professor, and Chair of Georgia Techâ€™s School of Mathematics, Dr. William Trotter.
Raised on his familyâ€™s farm in the small town of Halliday, North Dakota, Keller graduated from high school with eight other students. His academic merits have afforded him many opportunities to travel stateside, but he is ready to see the world. â€œThe opportunity to live abroad for two years also appealed to me,â€ Keller said. â€œI have never been abroad, so this opportunity was very exciting.â€