Julia Shapiro wins SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence

Markov chains research fuels passion to pursue graduate study in Applied Mathematics

Published March 31, 2022

Congratulations to Julia Shapiro, winner of the 2022 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.

 Julia Shapiro

The University at Buffalo Department of Mathematics is pleased to announce that Julia Shapiro, winner of the 2022 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Shapiro will graduate with a bachelor of science in mathematics, and her accomplishments as an undergraduate student include: University Honors College Scholar,  winner of the 2021 Harriet F. Montague Award, and President of the UB Undergraduate Math Club. Shapiro has completed research on Markov Chains through a nationally recognized program at the University of Connecticut, has been a Peer Mentor in the Honors College,  has served as an Ambassador of both the Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences, and has served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in three separate departments — Mathematics, Biostatistics, and Computer Science. 

Bio: Julia Shapiro is from Wheatfield, New York and attended Niagara Wheatfield High School. Throughout her time at UB, she has made it her mission to help other students feel like UB is their home away from home, and to be a resource for students to rely on. She has a passion for helping others and thoroughly enjoys holding events for UB Math club. Her contribution to the club has been in the form of reviewing resumes for underclassmen, creating mini meetings on how to get involved in research on campus and nationally, showing students how to apply to internships/study abroad, as well as connecting students with faculty by organizing the professor speaker series to provide students with the experiences to be successful in graduate school and beyond. She has a passion for giving others the opportunities they deserve and loves to speak about her experiences to the underclassmen in hopes of getting them involved on campus. She has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa for her accomplishments. 

About research: During the summer of 2021, Julia Shapiro participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Markov chains with the University of Connecticut, mentored by Dr. Iddo Ben-Ari and funded by the NSA. Her group’s goal was to find the quasi-stationary distributions of the Invasion model on a complete bipartite graph with a large and a small group, by looking at the behavior when the amount in the large group goes to infinity and the amount in the small group stays the same.

Shapiro's main role in this research was to compute equations to solve eigenvalues and eigenvectors of large matrices through simulation along with deriving the equations for the binomial and uniform distributions from their data that are outputted from simulation. Using these equations, she alongside her research group constructed a proof of their work by looking at their data as a coalescing Markov chain and tracing the steps backward to see a coupling argument. Her research group is currently writing a paper on quasi-stationary distributions and their applications which they will be submitting shortly for publication.

She had the opportunity to present her work at the UC REU Conference in July, 2021. Throughout the REU experience, she grew her skills as a mathematician and a computer scientist, by exploring new areas in mathematics. Shapiro's research in Markov chains has made her passionate about pursuing graduate school in Applied Mathematics. Learn more.