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Student Receives Accolades for Independent Study

C. Zhang ’22 completed an independent study in mathematics this year, focusing on network science. Upper School mathematics teacher Kieran Fitness was her independent study instructor, along with his wife Dr. Emma Towlson, who guided Zhang’s research project. Dr. Towlson is a professor of Network Neuroscience at the University of Calgary.

In Fitness’s new course, Network Science, Zhang learned the “mathematics of graph theory (networks), programming skills in Python, statistics for comparing and interpreting data, and neuroscience,” he said. From there, Zhang researched connectivity changes in the attention and visual functional networks in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

This spring, Zhang presented her findings at a conference run by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. She placed in the top 15 of 125 submissions, earning her at Data Blitz talk where she presented to the entire conference. She then had her poster displayed and fielded questions from attendees about her research, which required “considerable preparation” by her, Fitness said. At the conclusion of the conference, Zhang placed 2nd overall in a field of graduate students, Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral fellows. “The work she has produced is far beyond what would be expected of even final-year undergraduate college students,” Fitness said.

Zhang is presenting at a second conference at the end of June and hopes to continue her research next school year.