Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Nominee Will Linz

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee, Will Linz '16
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee, Will Linz ’16

HUR is forwarding the packets of three outstanding students as the TAMU nominees for the 2015 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation competition. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was started by six of the original Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting edge science and technology. Since its inception in 1984, the Mercury 7 have been joined by astronauts who have served on other Mercury missions as well as the Apollo, Gemini, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs. The $10,000 ASF Scholarship is the largest award presented to STEM majors based purely on merit, as demonstrated by initiative, creativity and productivity in research as well as excellence in coursework and dedication to leadership in their fields. Application for the Astronaut Scholarship is open to sophomores and juniors in all STEM fields starting in late December and culminating in early February with the selection of the TAMU nominees. Meet the first of our 2015 nominees!

What makes an Astronaut Scholar nominee? Academic excellence and passion for research are a given, but 2015 TAMU Nominee Will Linz ’16 has something more—an extraordinary talent for mathematics and the strong desire to communicate the elegance of a mathematical proof and the powerful implications of new branches of mathematics to non-mathematicians. Linz is in the University Honors and Math Honors program, majoring in mathematics with a minor in German from Temple, Texas. He will graduate with both a BS and MS in Mathematics in Spring 2016.

In addition to his heavy course load of undergraduate and graduate courses, Linz has pursued his passion for research starting freshman year with an aptitude that resulted in Fall 2013 in his becoming one of the very few sophomore Undergraduate Research Scholars ever. And when theses were evaluated in the Spring of 2014, Linz’ was on the short list for best thesis. The research discussed in his thesis, which analyzes ways of calculating how to sort and handle objects arranged in many different ways, has been submitted for publication at a top mathematics journal. Linz has continued his research on combinatorics, which is the base for theoretical computer science, with Dr. Catherine Yan during the academic year and participated in an REU on Chemical Graph theory at the University of Texas-Tyler this past summer. He has presented his research at numerous meetings including the 2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, Texas, MathFest in Portland, Oregon and multiple research expos here at Texas A&M including Student Research Week, where he was awarded first place in the Mathematics and Computer Science oral division.

Linz has also followed his desire to mentor and communicate about research in general and math in particular since his freshman year. As an incoming freshman, Linz was chosen as the youngest ever member of the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. His incisive comments and astute reviews are greatly respected, and led to his promotion to the Executive Board in 2013. Linz further honed his skills in communication upon being selected as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in 2014. This allowed him to receive additional training in presentations and to discuss undergraduate research and his own experiences with mathematics to audiences as disparate as parents and community members, prospective students, current students, graduate students and faculty.

Linz is acutely aware of how impenetrable cutting-edge mathematics seems to non-mathematicians, even to researchers in other STEM fields who are most likely to appreciate and apply the novel insights he and others are uncovering. Linz hopes to leverage both his increasing mathematical expertise and his communication skills to “translate” mathematical discoveries to the world of computer science and logic to enable faster integration of mathematical insights such as breakthroughs in combinatorics into technological advances in areas such as complex data queries and web searching algorithms.

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