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Research Grabs Heart of Math, Comp Sci Senior

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Juan-Carrillo

One of the things Juan Carrillo likes most about Loyola Marymount University is its focus on social justice, issues that would not normally be part of coursework for the 21-year-old senior double-majoring in applied mathematics and computer science.

“LMU helps bring awareness of social justice issues such as human trafficking and hunger – as well as a lot of relevant and recent issues like the Ferguson protest – to students,” Carrillo says. “I really like that it is, not only part of the student culture, but it’s also part of the faculty culture.”

From awareness follows attempts to understand and then efforts to solve problems, Carrillo says, and that’s what he’s aiming to do in pursuing a career as a university professor. He enjoys teaching, though it is research that’s grabbed his heart.

“I want to be doing research and studies all the time,” he says. “We can do mathematical research that can apply to real-world problems and improve the quality of people’s lives.”

Carrillo entered LMU as a computer science major and added applied mathematics after falling in love with its complexity and nuance. It also gave him the versatility to work across a range of fields.

Carrillo has had research opportunities since his freshman year at LMU, when he worked on a research project involving combinatorics with Mathematics Professor Ed Mosteig. Since his sophomore year, he’s also worked with professors Kam Dahlquist (biology) and Ben Fitzpatrick (mathematics) on an ongoing project to create a model to determine which genes are responsible for how yeast react to stimuli. The model they developed has been released publicly, and Carrillo presented results from their efforts to the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

This past summer, Carrillo got a chance to apply mathematics and computer science skills to a real-world problem at UCLA, working with claims data to look for patterns that would predict risk of hospitalization for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

“We developed a promising model for this disease and other datasets,” he says. “I got to learn a lot of different types of math, and I was able to appreciate the application of a classical method on a relevant problem.”

Born in Colombia, Carrillo lives in the San Fernando Valley. He’ll earn his degree in spring 2016 and plans to earn a doctorate in computer science.