Pomona College senior Maria Boya Zhu has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship for graduate study. The prestigious grants support graduate students for three years of study in science, engineering, mathematics and technology disciplines with a $30,000 annual stipend, a $12,000 cost of education allowance, international research and professional development opportunities and XSEDE supercomputer access.

Zhu, from Plano, Texas, is a double major in economics and mathematics and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at Duke University. Her NSF proposal focuses on the impact of affirmative action and affirmative action proxy programs on college students from different race, gender and socioeconomic cross-sections. "I hope to contribute to the body of research in higher education and help inform more effective public policy measures," she says.

Zhu has done research with former Dean of the College and Professor Cecilia Conrad and Professor Fernando Lozano, and published a paper with Lozano on "The Evolution of Intermarriage among Hispanic Women" in the fall 2012 volume of Hispanic Economic Outlook.

Her economics thesis, titled "An Analysis of General Education Requirements on Course Enrollment at Pomona College," uses data from Pomona's registrar to analyze the impacts of the policy change in curriculum that took place in 2006 and its impacts on student course enrollment decisions. "Mathematics of Happiness," her mathematics thesis, explores three approaches to modeling happiness: utility theory, dynamical models and category theory.

Zhu is a student liaison for the Economics Department and has been a teaching assistant for Introduction to Computer Science, Economics Statistics and Microeconomic Theory classes. Outside of the classroom, Zhu works at the Women's Union and is a senior interviewer at the Admissions Office.

Zhu is the daughter of Yuhang Zhu and Shuping Wang of Plano, Texas and a graduate of Plano Senior High School.

In addition to Zhu, seven Pomona alumni were awarded NSF fellowships: Meredith Course '12 is studying evolutionary biology at Stanford University; Jonathan Kadish '10 proposes to study economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Nicholas Kramer '11 will study neuroscience at Stanford University; at Northwestern University, Grace Larson '10 is in the psychology program; Kelly Miller '12, at University of Southern California, is pursuing psychology; Alexandra Scharr '10 is studying neuroscience at Stanford University; and Mai Thai '10 is at University of California, Davis studying sociology.