July featured student: Francesco Zuniga
Francesco is a Ph.D. student in the Statistics and Data Science program here at the University of Nevada, Reno. Prior to enrolling in his Ph.D. program, he studied Civil Engineering at the University of Tor Vergata in Rome Italy where he received his Bachelors. Francesco also holds a M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno. What drew Francesco to the University was being able to work two summers in the UNR Earthquake Lab. Currently, he is working with his advisor Prof. Anna Panorska in the area of extreme value theory, specifically peaks over threshold.
Francesco states, “The innovative models they developed was at first applied to Engineering problems related to energy peaks, direct impact on the state and national estimates of energy reserves and for financial applications, modeling the financial markets’ volatility. Later on, there was the chance to work on Big Data related to the field of climatic and atmospheric science. The process of fitting their model to the new dataset was an interesting challenge, the goal was to better understand and to give a scientific interpretation to these important climate changes: like heat waves, droughts and many more.”
Francesco has been the recipient of many awards and honors during his career at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2017, he won the Graduate Deans Merit Scholarship -- a highly coveted honor. In addition, in 2018 he was selected for the GSA Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, and in 2020 he received the GSA Outstanding International Graduate Student Award. In his department, he won the Ben & Beatrice Edwards Math Scholarship as well as outstanding teaching assistant for the Mathematics and Statistics Department. Furthermore, he won a very competitive scholarship from Reading University in London, UK for a summer research program in mathematics and statistics applied to climate change. He truly believes his research on Statistics of Climate Change will have a strong impact not only in his field. Using the scientific methods they are developing new models to observe and forecast these Climate Changes phenomena. Francesco explains, “Because the danger to irreparably ruin the ecosystem is real, and it is our duty to preserve and defend this amazing planet.” Francesco emphasizes that the key to building a better society is through research.
Besides receiving many awards and honors, Francesco also cofounded the student chapter of SIAM at the University of Nevada, Reno. Francesco explains, “SIAM, stands for Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. It is an organization that has chapters all over the world. The goal is to promote research that will lead to effective new mathematical and computational methods and techniques for science, engineering, industry, and society.” After he completes his Ph.D. program, he hopes to work in industry while still pursuing on research. Francesco’s advice to other students: If you are consistent and willing to work hard with perseverance, you can achieve anything you want.”