Alumna Wins Award for Paper Written as an Undergrad

Lara Kassab worked with Dr. Samer Habre on the paper before graduating with a BS in mathematics.

By Hanan Nasser

Kassab during her master’s thesis defense.

LAU alumna Lara Kassab has won the Richard V. Andree Award for best research paper published in Pi Mu Epsilon Journal in 2018.

Kassab, who graduated from LAU with a BS in mathematics in 2017, wrote the paper “Understanding the Center of 2x2 Linear Iterative Systems” in 2016 under the supervision of Associate Professor of Mathematics Samer Habre.

The Pi Mu Epsilon Journal is a publication of the mathematics honor society of the same name and is dedicated to publishing research conducted by undergraduate mathematics students. Kassab’s paper was judged to be the best one published in the journal in 2018.

Kassab – whose research interests include data science, machine learning, mathematical biology, and computational and applied topology – is now pursuing both her master’s and PhD in mathematics at Colorado State University.

Dr. Habre said the award-winning research was based on an idea that he shared with Kassab as an extension of a paper he published a few years back. “My role was to guide Lara in exploring the research questions I posed and to ascertain the accuracy of the mathematics.”

His work presented a complete classification of 2x2 linear iterative systems, while Kassab’s focused “on the case when the equilibrium solution of the system is a center. She described the behavior of the solutions in that particular case,” Dr. Habre said.

Now pursuing two graduate degrees, Kassab said researching and writing her paper while an undergrad at LAU “helped a lot, especially as it was my first experience doing so.”

Learning how to conduct research and present the results in a journal format, she added, “is an essential skill, especially when it comes to communicating ideas at conferences or to people outside the field of mathematics.”

Dr. Habre agrees. “Conducting research and publishing papers at the undergraduate level exposes students to topics not studied in class and helps them decide early on a specialization path. It also increases the student’s chances of enrolling in highly reputable graduate programs.”

He added that Kassab’s award is testament to the excellence of her research.