Christina Dekany, 25, Applied Mathematics
Christina Dekany earned a B.S. in computer science at the University of Dallas in 2004. She earned a master's degree in mathematics from Southern Methodist University in 2006 and is now working on the research for her Ph.D., which she'll complete in May 2009.
Dekany says mathematics was always her love, but theoretical mathematics wasn't quite the right fit for her, and it wasn't till she learned about the applied mathematics program at SMU that she found her niche.
Dekany describes what she does as "exploring the infinite and capturing its finite properties." In less esoteric terms, her research involves writing a computer program using "finite element methods" to solve a class of equations known as reaction-diffusion equations.
To understand finite element methods, Dekany suggests thinking of the car commercial in which a mesh is drawn over a car. The impact of a crash on the entire car can be approximated by considering the impact of the crash on each point on the mesh.
A reaction-diffusion system is a chemical solution involving the mixing of two or more liquids. Think of drops of oil in water. The diffusion swirl patterns that are created can be calculated by reaction-diffusion equations.
Reaction-diffusion equations can be used for purposes as varied as describing the spots on a leopard and explaining embryonic development. Dekany's work will create a computer program for solving two-dimensional reaction-diffusion equations.
The daughter of Hungarian political refugees, Dekany hopes to put her knowledge of computer science and applied mathematics to work in the U.S. defense industry.