College:College of Sciences
Degree Program:Mathematics PhD
Research Focus:Biological mathematics and mathematic modeling of infectious diseases
Growing up, Seoyun Choe’s mother always told her to become a person the world needs. She knew she wanted to do something impactful with her life but was unsure what field she wanted to pursue. Since she was in kindergarten, she has always loved math. However, she developed a passion for biology as well during her time in high school. Thinking she could not study both, Choe decided to pursue a future in math.
The South Korean native went on to study mathematics at Kyung Hee University, where she first learned about biological mathematics through a special lecture toward the end of her junior year. Intrigued by the field, Choe decided further studies in master's of biological mathematics at the university. During her graduate study, South Korea became overcome with MERS, and the global COVID-19 pandemic followed shortly after, cementing her desire to continue.
“Since I started studying in this field, I have realized that unexpected diseases and completely new diseases continue to occur, and diseases never disappear,” she says. “When I watch the world go through various diseases, I keep thinking that I want to be a person who helps the world with the knowledge I have, and these things motivate me.”
After completing her master’s degree, Choe wanted to expand her horizons and experience life outside her home country, so she began seeking study abroad opportunities in the United States. However, learning English became a significant hurdle. Some of her friends encouraged her to give up and get a job in Korea, but Choe was committed to furthering her studies abroad, and her perseverance paid off.
Choe searched for universities with biological mathematics classes and began applying to various programs for a master's degree, believing that her Korean master’s degree would not transfer to the United States. However, UCF advised her to apply to a PhD program. Doing so enabled her to receive a scholarship and a fellowship for her graduate study. “Because I felt UCF was kind and recognized me, I chose UCF,” she says.
Now, Choe is researching biological mathematics, specifically the mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. Many diseases, such as COVID-19, Influenza, and Dengue fever, can be described as mathematical models that reflect their characteristics. These models of infectious diseases can predict how much the disease will spread and how to use control strategies such as vaccination and treatments. Choe describes how mathematical modeling is essential and plays a significant role because it is impossible to experiment with disease spread among people.
For her work in the field, Choe won the ORC Doctoral Fellowship, the Doctoral Research Support Award, and the 2022 Student Scholar Symposium Judge’s Choice Award. Due to the pandemic, the scholar symposium was the first conference Choe attended in person. “The symposium allowed me to attend the Florida Graduate Student Conference, and it reminded me of my dream of seeing many other students working hard in their field of study,” she says.
After she graduates next summer, Choe plans to continue her research in searching for ways to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases. She aims to work in a position where she can use her knowledge of disease modeling and achieve her goal in life: to be a person who can help prevent or reduce the spread of the disease when an outbreak like COVID-19 occurs.
- ORC Doctoral Fellowship recipient
- Doctoral Research Support Award recipient
- 2022 Student Scholar Symposium-Judge’s Choice Award
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