Friday, November 19, 2010

Bridging math, biology and ecology

Josh Keller, hiking in Austria, loves exploring the outdoors, as well as different scientific fields.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed working on analytical puzzles,” says Josh Keller, an Emory senior majoring in math and linguistics and a Rhodes Scholar finalist. He hopes to spend his career solving health puzzles at the intersection of math and biology, and also help others understand those results.

“Many people don’t have the familiarity with numbers that comes naturally to me,” he says, “but numeracy is a critical ability for everyone in modern society.”

Keller spent part of his freshman year conducting research in a chemistry lab. “I was deliberate about exploring a lot of different areas,” he says, explaining how he expanded upon his interest in math and discovered his passions for language, ecology and the environment, and human health.

In his junior year, Keller joined a project modeling the transmission patterns of dengue fever. For his honors thesis, he is applying partial differential equations to epidemiological data, to try to improve models for tracking the spread of rabies in raccoons.

Building bridges between math, epidemiology and ecology can help control the spread of all kinds of infectious diseases, from rabies to deadly strains of influenza, he says. “I want to investigate and model practical biological issues with profound detail. But I also plan to be an instructor and a public figure who can relay that information in a helpful and meaningful way.”

Keller has served as a math tutor, a teacher’s assistant for linguistics, a freshman peer advisor and a leader of Bible study groups. He is president of Emory’s Wesley Fellowship and has participated in the Ethics and Servant Leadership Forum and the Open Door Community, which provides assistance to the homeless.

A Goldwater Scholar, Keller was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa his sophomore year. He has received high departmental awards in math and computer science, as well as in German – a rare honor for a non-major.

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