Emilie Rusch

Applied mathematics and statistics PhD wins Fall 2020 Rath Award

Colorado School of Mines awarded 60 doctoral and 195 master’s degrees during Fall 2020 Graduate Commencement
Katy Martinez photo

Kaitlyn Martinez, PhD in applied mathematics and statistics, is the winner of the Fall 2020 Dr. Bhakta Rath and Sushama Rath Research Award.

The honor, which recognizes the Mines doctoral graduate whose thesis demonstrates the greatest potential for societal impact, was presented during Fall 2020 Graduate Commencement on Dec. 18. During the virtual ceremony, Mines awarded a total of 60 doctoral and 195 master’s degrees to December and August graduates.

Martinez’ dissertation focused on statistical epidemiological models and incorporating new spatiotemporal effects to generate more realistic estimates of the spread of an epidemic – including the current COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiological models are used to provide public health officials with crucial guidance to direct treatment interventions, such as new medical facilities, public information campaigns and vaccination programs.

“Generally, the question Katy seeks to solve is ‘How can we forecast epidemics like we forecast the weather?’ ” said Stephen Pankavich, associate professor of applied mathematics and statistics and Martinez’ PhD advisor. “Though many researchers in the mathematical epidemiology community use modeling efforts to predict the dynamics of epidemics, Katy's dissertation develops new methods to better describe the spatiotemporal spread of outbreaks with impressive precision while functionally reducing the dimensionality of enormous data sets that are required to inform forecasting efforts within such models."

“This research has the potential to save countless lives by improving the current state of epidemic forecasting and informing public health decisions that reduce the spread of deadly infectious diseases around the globe,” he said.

Martinez, who defended her thesis in August, is now serving as member of the COVID-19 Modeling Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she will spend three years as a postdoctoral fellow.  

Runner-up for the Fall 2020 Rath Award was Lt. Col. Nick Duncan, PhD in Nuclear Engineering, for his dissertation, "Characterization Of Transport Equations With Forensic Applications (Nuclear And Social)." His advisor was Mark Deinert, associate professor of mechanical engineering.


Outstanding Graduating Master’s Student Award: Chosen by faculty in the Department of Computer Science, this award is presented to an exceptional graduate student. Jordan Newport

Emeritus Faculty Exemplary Graduate Student: Chosen by emeritus faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, this award is presented to an exceptional graduate student. Jasmin Honegger

Emilie Rusch

Emilie Rusch

Director of Communications
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.