Lauren Childs, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science, has been awarded the 2023–24 Ruth I. Michler Memorial Prize by Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Cornell University.

The award grants a mid-career mathematician a residential fellowship in Cornell University's Department of Mathematics without teaching obligations. Childs will “pursue a research project advancing mathematical theory and methods for trait-based models of infectious disease, including integral projection models,” according to the association. “Such models will also be used to study the spread of infectious disease, in particular malaria, and associated population dynamics.”

In addition, Childs will interact with faculty from Cornell's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She plans to arrive at Cornell this fall.

“I am honored to receive the 2023-2024 Michler Memorial Prize and am greatly looking forward to returning to my alma mater Cornell to spend a semester focused on research,” Childs said. “Many thanks to the Michler family, the AWM, and the Cornell mathematics department for the opportunity to interact with the outstanding mathematicians within the department.”

Peter Haskell, professor and chair of Virginia Tech's mathematics department, said, “Lauren is an outstanding mathematical biologist whose research draws on and contributes to biological sciences, mathematics, computational science, modeling, and experimentation. She is also someone who can always be counted on for insightful contributions to policy discussions.”

The prize is named for Ruth I. Michler, an associate professor at the University of North Texas, who was killed in November 2000 at age 33 when she was struck by a construction vehicle while riding her bicycle, according to the AWM. It was established by Michler’s parents, Gerhard and Waltraud Michler. Michler was born in Ithaca, New York, home to Cornell.

Childs earned dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and chemistry from Duke University in 2004 and master’s and doctoral degrees in applied mathematics from Cornell in 2007 and 2010, respectively. She completed postdoctoral work at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and spent a semester at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

She joined Virginia Tech in 2016. She has written more than 40 articles in leading research journals and has given more than 75 invited professional presentations. The Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellow in the College of Science, Childs was promoted to associate professor in 2022.

In addition to the Department of Mathematics, Childs is an affiliated faculty member with the systems biology program in the Academy of Integrated Science, also part of the College of Science, and a member of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

She has been awarded grants by the National Institutes of Health; the National Science Foundation, including its prestigious CAREER Award in 2022; and the Simons Foundation.

The AWM also noted Childs’ mentoring of undergraduate, master's, and doctoral students and her co-organization of an American Mathematical Society’s Mathematics Research Community program. She also has guest lectured at the Stanford University Mathematics Camp.

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