*Yuan will take the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*

In high school, many students are drawn to competitive sports. Some play football, some play basketball or lacrosse. Linden Yuan’s sport was math.

“In high school I participated in math competitions. I found math fun. I would have to answer a series of math questions individually under a certain amount of time,” he said.

Yuan, a senior mathematics major, carried his passion for math with him throughout his time at the University of Maryland. When he isn’t in his math classes, he reads books about math for fun.

“I love math because mathematics gives us the power to formulate precise statements of vague or complicated ideas,” he said. “We can also use math to design detailed and sophisticated ways to answer questions.”

Yuan has been doing that during his research experiences at UMD, including investigating queueing theory with Smith Chair of Management Science Michael Fu in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, examining machine learning techniques with the Mathematics Professor Wojciech Czaja, and analyzing data from high-energy physics in the Honors seminar, "Cracking the Secrets of the Universe with Computers," where he worked with Physics Professor Kaustubh Agashe.

Yuan will continue his research career in graduate school, thanks to the Department of Defense’s National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship he received. The program, established in 1989 by direction of Congress and sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, serves as a means to increase the number of citizens trained in science and engineering disciplines of military importance.

Landing this fellowship reminded Yuan of the mathematics competitions he participated in over the years. But this time, his competition was the rest of the nation. The NDSEG fellowship is highly competitive, having awarded just over 4,000 fellowships out of 60,000-plus applications since the program’s inception.

Yuan will be taking his fellowship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering. The fellowship will support him for three years and pays for full tuition and all mandatory fees; it also offers a monthly stipend and travel expenses.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity and the freedom that this fellowship offers me,” Yuan said. “Now I don’t have to worry about paying for school or finding a job. I only have to focus on my research.”

Yuan will study information flow on complex mathematical networks for his Ph.D. research.

“Imagine someone starts spreading information from a given point in the network. Then, you make observations at other points, farther away in the network,” he explained. “Using these observations, what can you say about the original starting point? I'll be using tools from electrical engineering and discrete probability to answer that question.”

Because math is Yuan’s favorite sport, an opportunity like this is like going to the championship. He looks forward to seeing his mathematical research make a difference in a real-life scenario.

“My application for the fellowship included a research proposal where the Department of Defense saw real-world value in my work,” Yuan said. “I’m so grateful that the fellowship allows me to do the research that I want to do and that it can be applied to real life.”

Written by Chelsea Torres