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Award-Winning Mathematician Graduates, Says ‘I’m Going to Disney World’

Elkridge man graduates from UMBC, moves on to Ph.D.

Geoffrey Clapp, 22, may have just earned his bachelor’s degree from the (UMBC), but two letters after his name are soon to be followed by three more.

Clapp recently earned his B.S. from UMBC in a double major: mathematics and computer science. But Clapp—who hails from Elkridge—is now bound for the University of Maryland, College Park, for his Ph.D. in applied mathematics. 

While in his undergraduate program, Clapp conducted extensive research with jawless eels and was deemed the Outstanding Senior in Mathematics, said Chelsea Haddaway, communications manager for UMBC. “Off-campus, he completed an internship with Northrop Grumman and participated in the NSA Mathematics Summer Employment Program,” she said.

This combination of classroom and field-based work prepared him for the Ph.D. program at University of Maryland, College Park, which emphasizes research and admits 10 to 15 students each year, according to the program's website.

Here’s what Clapp had to say about his studies, his future and his foundation from living in Elkridge:

What are you researching and why?

For three years at UMBC, I worked to develop and evaluate mathematical models used to study how a lamprey, which is an eel-like animal, swims. We model a part of the spinal cord called the central pattern generator, which is responsible for producing the basic wave-like rhythm of their swimming motion. This research provides insight into the general topic of vertebrate locomotion. Applications to this research include the treatment of human spinal cord injuries and, possibly, the development of submarines that swim like lampreys. At College Park, I will likely begin a new research project but hope to stay involved in mathematical biology.

What do you hope to do with the Ph.D.?

The [applied mathematics] program takes four to six years. Once I earn my Ph.D., I hope to become a professor to mentor college students and conduct research in applied mathematics.

How did you get into your field?

Mathematics has been my favorite subject since elementary school. UMBC has introduced me to many ways to apply my passion for the subject to solving real-world problems. During my undergraduate experience, I was given the opportunity not only to learn about applications of math, but also to conduct research in the field of mathematical biology.

Has living in Elkridge contributed to getting you to where you are now?

I love living in Elkridge. I have lived there all of my life, in the house that my mother was raised in. I received a great education from , and . My teachers at each level brought mathematics and the sciences to life with their passion for the subjects. My calculus teacher, Mr. Kennedy, in particular really helped to develop my interest in mathematics into a passion for the subject. I actually wrote about him in my personal statement for applying to graduate school.

Do you see yourself returning to Elkridge?

I am hoping that my girlfriend, Margaret, and I will be able to find an apartment there, as it is the halfway point between our two schools—the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I'm definitely a homebody and hope to stay in Maryland for as long as I can.

Is there anything you'd like people to know about you?

In the spring of 2010, I had the honor of receiving a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Each year, this award is given to about 300 students across the nation to support the continuation of their education in mathematics, the sciences, or engineering. Receiving this award has helped me to continue my study of and research in applied mathematics. Thanks to additional support from UMBC, I have had the opportunity to present my research at several conferences, including UMBC's own undergraduate research day. This past summer, I presented my work at the SIAM Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, where I received first place in the undergraduate poster competition. I am very thankful to the mathematics department and the Honors College at UMBC for these opportunities, and their support and advising throughout my undergraduate career.

What now?

[After graduation,] I am going to Disney World with my girlfriend and parents, to celebrate my and my girlfriend's graduation from UMBC. I haven't been since middle school, and I am excited to experience it from a new perspective.

Margaret June 07, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Go Geoff!! We're so proud of you!
Lamar Family June 24, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Congratulations Geoff! You are a great representation of our aspiring youth. Best wishes for your future! The Lamar Family

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