Hannah Callender Highlander

Associate Professor of MathematicsHannah Callender Highlander

“When I entered graduate school, I had little interest in research. My goal was to become a professor so I could teach. But the more research I did, the more I fell in love with it. I realized that if I developed a strong undergraduate research agenda, I could have the best of both worlds.

My research falls under the umbrella of mathematical biology. I use mathematical tools and ideas to solve problems in biology. The research is often driven by my students’ interests, and I have worked with them on the development and analysis of cellular signaling pathways, blood glucose control, antibiotic resistance, and infectious diseases on contact networks. I involve students in every aspect: problem creation, model development and analysis, manuscript writing, and presentation of findings. To date, every joint research project that my students and I have submitted has been accepted for publication.

Recently I worked with Parkes Kendrick ’17 and Tsikata Apenyo ’19 on interpersonal violence prevention on college campuses. Parkes wanted to combine her passions for mathematics and social justice, so we decided to create a mathematical model of the Green Dot bystander violence prevention program. We used ‘agent-based modeling’ to program certain traits of individuals (‘agents’) so we could see how individual choices and behaviors affect global phenomena such as the spread of violent behaviors or the prevention of them through bystander interventions. We found specific aspects of our campus’s violence prevention efforts that should be strengthened to make it a safer place.

I love working with students on research. It means I can provide them with the tools to get started and then let them discover how capable they are at making discoveries on their own.”

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